Commas when listing in a sentence

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When I was in the 5th grade, I specifically remember my teacher telling us to use commas like so:

Jackie plays basketball, softball, badminton, and tennis. 

Now, I noticed that people will write setnences like this:

Jackie plays basketball, softball, badminton and tennis

 

 

As you can imagine, I'm confused because I've been writing like the first example for many years. Which is the correct way?

commas list Sentence asked Apr 26 '13 at 13:28 Ashli Agnant New member

2 answers


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They're both correct. Some people prefer the first style, while others prefer the second style. Even the top style manuals are torn on it: Chicago Manual of Style includes the comma, but the AP Stylebook doesn't.

 

The final comma in a series is called the "serial comma" or "Oxford comma." You can read more about it -- and the arguments for and against it -- here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma

link comment answered Apr 26 '13 at 13:42 Actually Holly Expert
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Journalistic style -- such as shown by the AP manual -- wants to conserve space, and so eliminates the Oxford comma. The style manuals used in academic publishing -- Chicago, MLA, APA, etc -- all call for its use.

 

Leaving the comma out can confuse the meaning. In construction law, there are many cases where the courts have held that badminton and tennis is ONE compound item, not two separate items, when the comma is left out (note the purposeful use of the singular is).

 

My advise: just because other are lazy and skip the comma doesn't make it right. Always use the Oxford comma.

link comment answered Apr 26 '13 at 23:10 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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