Serial comma

Comma before the conjunction in a list / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In English-language punctuation, a serial comma (also called a series comma, Oxford comma, or Harvard comma)[1][2] is a comma placed immediately after the penultimate term (i.e., before the coordinating conjunction, such as and or or) in a series of three or more terms. For example, a list of three countries might be punctuated either as "France, Italy and Spain" (without the serial comma) or "France, Italy, and Spain" (with the serial comma).[3][4][5]

Opinions among writers and editors differ on whether to use the serial comma, and usage also differs somewhat between regional varieties of English. British English allows constructions with or without this comma,[6] whereas in American English it is common and sometimes even considered mandatory.[citation needed] The APA style,[7] The Chicago Manual of Style, Garner's Modern American Usage,[8] The MLA Style Manual,[citation needed] Strunk and White's The Elements of Style,[9] and the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual[10] recommend or mandate it. By contrast, the Associated Press Stylebook and The New York Times Style Book[11] advise against it. In Canada, the stylebook published by The Canadian Press advises against it. Most British style guides do not mandate its use. The Economist Style Guide notes that most British writers use it only where necessary to avoid ambiguity.[12] A few British style guides mandate it, most notably The Oxford Style Manual (hence the name, "Oxford comma").[13] However, the University of Oxford Style Guide (2014) advises against its use.[14]

The Oxford Companion to the English Language notes: "Usage varies as to the inclusion of a comma before and in the last item. ... This practice is controversial and is known as the serial comma or Oxford comma, because it is part of the house style of Oxford University Press."[15]

There are cases in which the use of the serial comma can avoid ambiguity, and also instances in which its use can introduce ambiguity.[16]