Tuesday, August 05, 2008
As a journalism major, I was taught that the serial or Oxford comma—the one that separates the word "and" and the last of three or more items in a series that follows it—was optional, but preferable. Chicago and most other style guides advise its use, but not the Associated Press.
I've always found it to be helpful to use the comma, my logic being that it doesn't slow down the reader much, and has the significant added benefit of making many sentences easier to understand, reducing ambiguity for more often than it creates it. So I've consistently used it in my writing ever since, but consciously not used it when writing for employers or publications other than my own.
My personal views haven't changed, but given how often I have been working on magazines and other projects where the house style is to omit serial commas a la AP style, I am going to make a conscious effort to not use them, at least for a little while, and see if I can live peacefully without them. Don't be surprised if I change right back at some point. But you only live once, so I'm giving this crazy new lifestyle a whirl.
Conveniently, Vampire Weekend have a new song and video tangentially about this type of comma, to ensure that this post isn't a total bore.