1. neverliketheending
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    neverliketheending New Member

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    How many commas?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by neverliketheending, Oct 9, 2010.

    In this sentance should there 2 commas, or 3?
    'She went to the shop and bought apples, carrots, pears, and oranges.'
    Its the last comma between 'pears' and 'and' I'm arguing with hubby about.
     
  2. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Neither ways are technically incorrect. Yet, in a list such as this, where each object carries equal weight/meaning it would be appropriate to include it.

    In situations like this, as a general rule, best to inlclude it unless you you are specifically attempting to (very subtly) modify stress or rhythm.
     
  3. neverliketheending
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    neverliketheending New Member

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    Thanks, although that means DH was right, even if technically I wasn't wrong.
     
  4. NarcissusShrugged
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    NarcissusShrugged Member

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    The "Harvard" comma



    Hello, noob here. In fact this is one of the first threads I have looked at and the first one I'm responding to, but having run across this situation before, I thought I'd pipe in. Not sure of the etiquette here yet, so if I step on toes or anything, please advise.


    The comma before the conjunction in a list is indeed a matter of choice, as previously and quite eloquently stated. When used, it is referred to as a serial comma.
    Also informally known as the "Oxford" or "Harvard" comma there are arguments for and against its use, but both are considered technically correct (or more precisely, neither is considered incorrect).

    As the nicknames suggest the serial comma is generally considered to be the more formal of the two usages, but I don't believe there are any hard and fast rules. The style guides aren't much help, they're fairly evenly split, I fear.

    It's subtle, but the variation chosen can affect ambiguity as well as have an effect in the cadence the reader employs.
    Personally, I tend to not use it unless I have a specific reason to. The extra pause doesn't make sense to my ears.

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

    Better than I coulda put it.

    Looking forward to meeting folks, I'm kinda hoping this site will help me light a candle under my lazy tuckus and get me writing again, but I'll save that for my bio page.

    cheers,
    Tom
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you are both right... or neither of you is wrong... take your pick...
     
  6. carbonbased
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    carbonbased New Member

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    Reminds me of the Vampire Weekend song. I prefer to put the comma before the last object. For example, let's say I write "My failed cookies contained milk, flour, garlic, salt and pepper." Our tendency to say salt and pepper together might confuse them as one item, ruining the flow. Now, the other way. "My failed cookies contained milk, flour, garlic, salt, and pepper." Both are correct, technically. This is just one example, other sentences work well both ways.

    Oh, and don't ask me for the recipe. I burned it.
     
  7. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Both are correct in this example, although the last comma is very rarely used in British punctuation, since the 'and' is considered to take its place and an extra comma is therefore superfluous.
     
  8. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    If both are correct, and I don't doubt they are, then it is a matter of style/preference.
    I prefere the sentence with two commas. (it looks tidier)
     
  9. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ooh, ooh, on the other hand, I've been noticing something I do with descriptive listing. Pretty much the reverse - I'm sure I'm not using enough commas. But it always looks so clunky and list-like if I put in too many. I just noticed:

    in my writing, but I don't want to make it

    because then it looks like a list. It's almost like there's a secret hyphen in there, like, sparkling-green, except the lack of a comma rather than the presence of a hyphen joins the words. I've noticed recently I've done it whenever I do have to resort to a quick list of adjectives instead of a proper long description. I just prefer the flow of the sentence, even if it's not actually how I was taught to do it. When I'm caught up in writing the commas come instinctively as I breathe along the sentences, so they're in the places I automatically thought were best, and it's only on re-reading and editing I'll change any of them.

    Thoughts from the grammar people?
     
  10. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Melzaar
    Between your two sample sentences the first sentence with one comma is correct.
    You could write 'see the way her clear and sparkling green eyes...'
    You could say 'see the way her clear green eyes sparkle...'
    I don't see the need for a list of adjectives, they should be used sparingly, but that's a subject for another thread.
     
  11. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    See, I don't think of them like a list when I'm writing them... Just see "sparkling green" as another description. Then I read back and realise it looks like a list. :/

    Bleh, I don't know how to make it work - your suggestions might be good for other sentences, but they do change the flow of mine, since that was just a line from a much longer sentence. Needs to be concise. I hate adding in a ton of "and this and that" in the middle of a sentence.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since you would probably not say: 'She had sparkling and green eyes' you shouldn't put 'She had sparkling, green eyes'. Only put a comma where it's possible to put an 'and'.

    On the other hand, where it's not something we usually say, like 'She had sparkling and pink eyes' meaning like: 'She had sparkling eyes which were pink as well', then you could put the comma: 'She had sparkling, pink eyes.'
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Multiple adjectives have nothing to do with lists and the Harvard/Oxford comma.

    Your example:
    needs a comma after sparkling if clear, sparkling, and green are all independent modifiers for eyes.

    As written, sparkling is a modifier for green, and clear can either modify green or eyes. In other words, commas separate independent modifiers, but a comma does not separate a modified from an immediately following word it modifies.

    The Harvard or Oxford comma applies ONLY to the second to last list item in a list of three or more items, and whether it is superflous given that it is followed by and or or.
     
  14. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    *squints at the screen* So... I can get away with it?

    And I figured it came under the heading of "how many commas" ... lol... since this discussion from the original post seemed pretty finished. :p
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Nope, hijacking threads is frowned upon.
     

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