24 October 2010

The Final Serial Comma Is Still a Necessity

You kow what the final serial comma is, don't you?

It's the last comma used on a list, so you see, "Item1, Item2, Item3, Item4, Item5, and Item6."

Some people believe that this is an anachronism that can be discarded, and that, "Item1, Item2, Item3, Item4, Item5 and Item6," is acceptable.

Well, Patrick Nielsen Hayden believes that this shortcut is in error, and I agree:

With the final serial comma, it is clear that Merle Haggard's ex-wives, as well as Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall were interviewed.

Without the final serial comma it is clear that Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall are Merle Haggard's two ex wives.

To quote Emo Phillips, "Ambiguity, the Devil's Vollyball."


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