The Oxford, Listing, or Serial Comma

I recently got customer feedback about the use of a comma before “and” in a list of three items.

I personally like the use of the Oxford (or serial/listing) comma. It adds clarity to a list, which is what I believe we should be trying to do – ambiguity is never a good idea in a translation, especially a technical one.

To quote Hart’s Rules:

“…cider, real ales, meat and vegetable pies, and sandwiches.”

The comma before the final “and” is required for clarity, or the sandwiches may be slightly different than one expects.

The customer wanted no serial commas, which of course was what they got. However, the example above shows why, perhaps, this small piece of punctuation is sometimes a very good idea.

Also available in: German

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