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View Full Version : comma before 'and' vs. no comma before 'and'


coolwater
Jul 3, 2009, 12:03 AM
1 space or 2 spaces after a period poll was surprisingly interesting.

Then, do you put comma before 'and' or not?

Example #1> I bought bread, milk, and eggs.

Example #2> I bought bread, milk and eggs.


I was told to do #1 in high school. But, my college English professor (actually a very hot TA) said both are okay. She said she does #1 because that's how she was taught, but #2 is okay as well.

thegoldenmackid
Jul 3, 2009, 12:04 AM
def. no comma. used to get counted off 3 points in English if we even tried that stuff...oh I loved eigth grade, but then again this is Texas we talk about.

Diane2boys
Jul 3, 2009, 12:05 AM
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yg17
Jul 3, 2009, 12:06 AM
I've always heard that either was is acceptable, but I never put that comma, it just looks weird.

SkyBell
Jul 3, 2009, 12:08 AM
def. no comma. used to get counted off 3 points in English if we even tried that stuff...oh I loved eigth grade, but then again this is Texas we talk about.

I'm glad I missed that. (I left Texas in 7th grade, cane back in 9th. :P)

But I also don't use the comma. It just looks weird to me.

steve2112
Jul 3, 2009, 12:08 AM
I always used a comma, since I think that is what the Chicago Manual uses.

BTW, when did this turn into grammar rumors? :)

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:08 AM
Both are correct.

Generally, you use no comma in a simple series, such as the one you provided. You always use a comma in more complex series, such as: I got up this morning, took a shower, ate breakfast, and went to work.

You can also use a semi-colon in some cases: I got up this morning, it was too early; took a shower, the water was cold; ate breakfast, cereal again; and went to work.

thegoldenmackid
Jul 3, 2009, 12:08 AM
I always used a comma, since I think that is what the Chicago Manual uses.

BTW, when did this turn into grammar rumors? :)

Long before you joined...

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:11 AM
BTW, your poll should read:

I bought bread, milk and eggs.

or

I bought bread, milk and an egg.

colourfastt
Jul 3, 2009, 12:11 AM
Always use a comma.

thegoldenmackid
Jul 3, 2009, 12:11 AM
You can also use a semi-colon in some cases: I got up this morning, it was too early; took a shower, the water was cold; ate breakfast, cereal again; and went to work.

That last one is a tad bit different though, considering that you are modifying each of the things being listed, the commas would become rather confusing. I do believe both is correct, but I def. don't use the ", and" method.

techfreak85
Jul 3, 2009, 12:13 AM
i change it up depending how i feel.;)

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:14 AM
That last one is a tad bit different though, considering that you are modifying each of the things being listed, the commas would become rather confusing. I do believe both is correct, but I def. don't use the ", and" method.

Yes, it is different. I thought I would share, since we are on the subject of commas in a series.

dukebound85
Jul 3, 2009, 12:16 AM
i use a comma

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:19 AM
From the AP Stylebook:

IN A SERIES: Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.

Use a comma also before the concluding conjunction in a complex series of phrases: The main points to consider are whether the athletes are skillful enough to compete, whether they have the stamina to endure the training, and whether they have the proper mental attitude.

dukebound85
Jul 3, 2009, 12:22 AM
english is too hard. i only use the punctuation thats needed to convey my point lol

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:24 AM
english is too hard. i only use the punctuation thats needed to convey my point lol

Here, I'm more relaxed ... but at work, English is my job.

coolwater
Jul 3, 2009, 12:34 AM
From the AP Stylebook:

IN A SERIES: Use commas to separate elements in a series, but do not put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series: The flag is red, white and blue. He would nominate Tom, Dick or Harry.

Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.


Makes more sense. Recommended or a must?

Second question: Can I put comma in a simple series to emphasize? i.e. we only have red, white, and blue.

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:38 AM
Makes more sense. Recommended or a must?

Second question: Can I put comma in a simple series to emphasize? i.e. we only have red, white, and blue.

It all depends on which manual of style you choose to follow. I don't remember what S&W, MLA or Chicago say.

Abstract
Jul 3, 2009, 12:40 AM
Damn. I always use the comma.

I'm gonna make the switcheroo over to the non-comma side.

MacDawg
Jul 3, 2009, 12:43 AM
No comma, at least for me

Woof, Woof - Dawg http://homepage.mac.com/k.j.vinson/pawprint.gif

Gelfin
Jul 3, 2009, 12:53 AM
The comma before the conjunction is often referred to as the "Oxford comma," where the additional comma is traditionally preferred, although the school's own style guide officially recommends against it.

In general, conventional wisdom is to avoid the Oxford comma as unnecessary, but this is a flexible rule. Any writer will encounter situations where clarity of a sentence can be increased or decreased by inclusion or exclusion of the comma, and of course one should always err on the side of greater clarity.

Jaffa Cake
Jul 3, 2009, 01:24 AM
The Oxford Comma, I think it's called. (EDIT: Er, yeah, as Gelfin says).

It's something I use and - having checked up on it - it's fine to do so. I think the key thing if you're going to use it is to use it in a consistant manner.

Doctor Q
Jul 3, 2009, 01:36 AM
I prefer, use, and recommend the comma.

My reason? You pause when you say the sentence out loud, and the comma represents the pause.

zephead
Jul 3, 2009, 01:45 AM
I always thought things in a list were always listed with commas, unless the two things you don't put a comma between are somehow connected.

For example, unrelated items get commas between all of them:
"I went to the store and bought milk, eggs, and cheese."

Items which go together as a pair get commas:
"For breakfast, we are having bacon and eggs, sausage, and toast." Bacon and eggs are a pair, while sausage and toast aren't necessarily tied together.

Macky-Mac
Jul 3, 2009, 01:53 AM
where I grew up, you would never say either of those.....never mind whether you used a comma or not, you would say "i bought bread, milk and an egg" or you would say "I bought bread, milk, and eggs"........you would never say "I bought bread, milk and egg" :D

where is the OP from anyway?

coolwater
Jul 3, 2009, 01:56 AM
where I grew up, you would never say either of those.....never mind whether you used a comma or not, you would say "i bought bread, milk and an egg" or you would say "I bought bread, milk, and eggs"........you would never say "I bought bread, milk and egg" :D

where is the OP from anyway?


r.j.s. has already pointed out my mistakes. Maybe I should correct them.

BoyBach
Jul 3, 2009, 05:56 AM
Both are correct and as Vampire Weekend sing: "Who gives a ***** about an Oxford comma?"

SpookTheHamster
Jul 3, 2009, 07:01 AM
Both are correct and as Vampire Weekend sing: "Who gives a ***** about an Oxford comma?"

Was just coming here to say that, damn you!

Melrose
Jul 3, 2009, 08:02 AM
I mostly don't use a comma, but it kind of depends on the cadence I think my typing should be read with (I know, preposition).

If I think the reading should be calmer and slower I add a comma...

creator2456
Jul 3, 2009, 08:48 AM
I find out what the professor wants and do what they say. Adding a comma or taking one away isn't going to shorten my life so I leave it up to whoever I am typing something for to figure out.

instaxgirl
Jul 3, 2009, 09:15 AM
Both are correct.

Generally, you use no comma in a simple series, such as the one you provided. You always use a comma in more complex series, such as: I got up this morning, took a shower, ate breakfast, and went to work.

But I thought you used the Oxford Comma in a simple series if there were more than 3 items in the series?

So if the OP's post said "I bought bread, milk, eggs, and juice" then I'd recognise the Oxford Comma.

I never use it anyway. I was taught that you "NEVER" use a comma before "and" and no one ever introduced the Oxford Comma into future grammar classes. To me it looks awkward and entirely wrong, whatever the context (and yes I have seen contexts when it's used to reduce ambiguity, to me it still looks wrong. My English teacher really hammered things home :o)

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 09:20 AM
But I thought you used the Oxford Comma in a simple series if there were more than 3 items in the series?

So if the OP's post said "I bought bread, milk, eggs, and juice" then I'd recognise the Oxford Comma.


My rules say no with a simple series, and the length doesn't matter. You do use it with a more complex series.

joro
Jul 3, 2009, 09:21 AM
BTW, your poll should read:

I bought bread, milk and eggs.

or

I bought bread, milk and an egg.

Surely there’s some irony in this. :D

abijnk
Jul 3, 2009, 09:32 AM
Comma.

I've been told I am "comma happy" many times before, though, so I guess that's why. :o

Tom B.
Jul 3, 2009, 09:48 AM
I always use the serial comma. Because it better matches how a sentence would be said aloud, and because it looks better.

Gelfin
Jul 3, 2009, 09:57 AM
There are cases where addition of the comma introduces ambiguity that would not be there otherwise.

"I took Kathy, my dog, and a picnic lunch to the beach."

Is Kathy somebody else, or is the dog's name Kathy?

"I took Kathy, my dog and a picnic lunch to the beach."

No ambiguity here.

Abstract
Jul 3, 2009, 10:34 AM
Really? They're equally ambiguous to me. :o


OK, I'm back on the pro-comma side. I like how there's a pause, just like how you'd say it if you spoke aloud. Or perhaps I'm just bi-curious at the moment.

mscriv
Jul 3, 2009, 11:10 AM
According to the Harbrace College Handbook:

Commas separate items in a series (including coordinate adjectives). Consisting of three or more items, a series is a succession of parallel elements. The punctuation of a series depend on its form:

The air was raw, dank, and gray. [a, b, and c - a preferred comma before and]

The air was raw, dank and gray. [a, b and c - an acceptable omission of the comma before and when there is no danger of misreading]

Personally, I always use the comma before the conjunction in a series. My english professors were pretty adamant that the comma be used and so when i see it omitted it looks wrong to me.

iGary
Jul 3, 2009, 11:17 AM
Our publication's style guide does not include the use of a serial comma in a list of items (three or more).

We'd write:

The boat was full of food, fuel, water and other provisions.

It really depends on who you write or work for.

Strunk and White:

red, white, and blue

or

gold, silver, or copper

colourfastt
Jul 3, 2009, 11:24 AM
I believe the 'modern' style guides omit the comma; whereas, the older guides (the ones those of us who are over 40 learnt from) require the comma. I guess it's just another example of how the English language is devolving into Kindergarten English.

sushi
Jul 3, 2009, 11:32 AM
I do it both ways.

There are cases where addition of the comma introduces ambiguity that would not be there otherwise.

"I took Kathy, my dog, and a picnic lunch to the beach."

Is Kathy somebody else, or is the dog's name Kathy?

"I took Kathy, my dog and a picnic lunch to the beach."

No ambiguity here.
I would probably change to this:

"I took Kathy and my dog to the beach were we enjoyed a picnic lunch."

Otherwise, it can be confusing as you illustrated.

jb1280
Jul 3, 2009, 11:35 AM
I have always used the serial comma.

Badandy
Jul 3, 2009, 11:37 AM
I prefer, use, and recommend the comma.

My reason? You pause when you say the sentence out loud, and the comma represents the pause.

QFT.

Also, not putting the comma at the end seems to imply that the last two items are somehow more related than the first one and the second one. I don't like that.

ucfgrad93
Jul 3, 2009, 12:00 PM
I was taught to put the comma in before and when listing items.

There are cases where addition of the comma introduces ambiguity that would not be there otherwise.

"I took Kathy, my dog, and a picnic lunch to the beach."

Is Kathy somebody else, or is the dog's name Kathy?

"I took Kathy, my dog and a picnic lunch to the beach."

No ambiguity here.

I would just rearrange the words to this:

"I took Kathy, a picnic lunch, and my dog to the beach."

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 12:07 PM
"I took Kathy and my dog to the beach were we enjoyed a picnic lunch."


Ahem.

I took Kathy and my dog to the beach, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch.

Gelfin
Jul 3, 2009, 12:57 PM
Really? They're equally ambiguous to me. :o

Omission of the comma would be unquestionably wrong if the dog's name were Kathy.

"I took Kathy and my dog to the beach were we enjoyed a picnic lunch."

Otherwise, it can be confusing as you illustrated.

Only you've now written additional facts into the sentence, which hypothetically might have been followed by, "we never reached that beach, however, having been abducted by mutant space ants along the way."

Whether the sentence could be constructed in some other way is really sort of beside the point, though. It wasn't meant as a problem to be solved, but as an example of the rule in question. Rewriting it so that it isn't an example is a viable alternative in practice, but doesn't really help with the topic at hand.

I guess it's just another example of how the English language is devolving into Kindergarten English.

It is a known phenomenon that use of the comma in written English has undergone a centuries-long decline that continues today. This is not a new trend in infantilizing English. If you read something written a hundred or two years ago you'll see commas everywhere, in places you'd never think to stick them.

takao
Jul 3, 2009, 01:05 PM
I believe the 'modern' style guides omit the comma; whereas, the older guides (the ones those of us who are over 40 learnt from) require the comma. I guess it's just another example of how the English language is devolving into Kindergarten English.

in german the comma before "und" is long gone so actually this is more a case of english re-approaching it's germanic roots ;)

(and yeah the comma was super annoying to learn when just a few years before you hard learned _not_ to make a comma when you learned german in school

Cynicalone
Jul 3, 2009, 01:10 PM
Are we having english class in here today? Between this and the period thread. :)

jecapaga
Jul 3, 2009, 02:26 PM
No comma.

sushi
Jul 3, 2009, 07:12 PM
"I took Kathy and my dog to the beach were we enjoyed a picnic lunch."
Ahem.

I took Kathy and my dog to the beach, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch.
Oops. Good catch! :)

Smacks forehead. :eek:

Rewriting it so that it isn't an example is a viable alternative in practice, but doesn't really help with the topic at hand.
I beg to differ.

If there is doubt, with the commas or not, then rewrite the sentence so that it is easier to understand.

After all, the bottom line is communication. Which to me, means getting your point across to the receiver.

Doctor Q
Jul 3, 2009, 09:33 PM
"I took Kathy and my dog, also named Kathy, to the beach, where we enjoyed a picnic lunch." :)

Then there's the case where you are identifying a specific beach -- the one where you once enjoyed a picnic lunch:

"I took Kathy and my dog, also named Kathy, to the beach where we enjoyed a picnic lunch."

richard.mac
Jul 3, 2009, 09:50 PM
if it sounds better with a comma or allows for sentence structure with a break, as Doctor Q mentioned, then i use a comma before "and". if its just a simple listing in a sentence then i dont use a comma.

(yes i write without proper grammar in forum posts :p, but def. not in uni essays.)

11800506
Jul 3, 2009, 10:00 PM
I mostly use the comma but sometimes I randomly don't use it.

I just like consistency I guess, so that's why I do it.

r.j.s
Jul 3, 2009, 10:04 PM
I mostly use the comma but sometimes I randomly don't use it.

That's not very consistent ...

I just like consistency I guess, so that's why I do it.