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  1. Derivi Dave
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    Derivi Dave New Member

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    The Harvard Comma

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Derivi Dave, Aug 3, 2010.

    When listing three items in a series, what is the protocol on the Harvard comma?

    The mountain road was rigid, rocky and rolling.
    The mountain road was rigid, rocky, and rolling.

    In band, I played a song called "Hope, Honor and Glory".
    In band, I played a song called "Hope, Honor, and Glory".

    Is the Harvard comma the third comma you place in?
    Or is it the process of omitting the third comma, as it is deemed useless?

    Signed, clueless.
     
  2. Fedora
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    Fedora Active Member

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    The Serial/Oxford/Harvard comma is the last comma in a list, before the conjunction. It's never grammatically incorrect, so use it whenever possible. It usually makes your list easier to read. Some will tell you that it's improper to use in newspapers and online articles, but in that case it comes down to personal preference.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    In the words of Ezra Koenig, who gives a f/ck about an Oxford Comma?
     
  4. Tamsin
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    Tamsin Senior Member

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    i hate that comma.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I think whether you use it or not can make a subtle difference in meaning. I dislike it when people leave it out, unless I get the sense they did so to try to achieve a different meaning than if they had included it.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I prefer to leave it in, as it removes any ambiguity that may arise as to whether the final two items are really intended to be separate or paired:

    Without the Harvard comma, you could interpret the last item as either combined or separate salt and pepper shakers.

    Not all cases are this ambiguous, but rather than analyze each case, it's easier to disambiguate it with the Harvard comma.

    Besides, as a software developer, it appeals to my sense of consistency and order. :)
     
  7. JessaNova
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    JessaNova Senior Member

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    I always use that last comma. The sentence just feels incomplete if I don't.
    I do agree that it's about how you read it, so I guess it's just personal preference. :rolleyes:
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Cogito makes a good point: there are cases where the meaning would be ambiguous without it.

    I can't be dogmatic about its use. As always, I read my stuff aloud and decide whether it sounds better with the comma or without. That little pause can make or break the rhythm.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with Minstrel. I treat it case by case and cannot profess to having chosen a camp.
     
  10. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Wow! Never thought I'll be learning about something called 'Harvard Comma'. It sounds so.... English :)

    Does that name/term also applies to the last comma of a list of phrases? I invariably use comma in such instances. In other instances like the original example (unless meaning is ambiguous as Cog pointed out), I am with Tamsin.
     
  11. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    If the comma stands for 'and' then why have a comma and 'and'?

    If it were written in full it would read like this -
    There was a small table with dozens of shakers: oregano and pepper flakes and powdered parmesan and salt and and pepper.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    A comma doesn't stand for "and."
     
  13. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don’t you mean the Oxford comma? It was originally a feature of the editors at Oxford University Press.

    Although the comma doesn't really stand for 'and', I do remember being taught at school that if there was an 'and' at the end of a simple list, it was unnecessary to put a comma.

    Careful placement of commas can be necessary sometimes to prevent elements running together, like:
    ‘I had peas, fish and chips, and beer for supper’
    NOT ‘I had peas, fish, and chips, and beer for supper’
    OR ‘I had peas, fish and chips and beer for supper’.

    Otherwise, there is no need to bother with such superfluous excrescences. I don’t think that all US punctuation guides recommend it.
     

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