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Commas and lists--please help settle a dispute

(7 Posts)
Cleanthatroomnow Sat 15-Feb-14 10:05:01

DH says a list in a sentence should be punctuated like this:

"I have a cat, a dog, a fish, and a fox"

My DCs say school taught them to do this:

"I have a cat, a dog, a fish and a fox"

Does the "and" take the place of the final comma? DH says no, because that makes the fish and fox one "item"??

I'm confused.

jessjessjess Sat 15-Feb-14 10:24:55

A comma after an 'and' is called an Oxford comma or serial comma and is only needed where it changes or clarifies meaning.

A fish and a fox do not become one item because they are separated by 'and'.

Some examples of how you might use it:
We had soup, spaghetti and meatballs, and ice cream. (The spaghetti and meatballs came together, the ice cream was separate.)
This shirt comes in red, yellow, black, and white. (But not black and white.)

Franchini Sat 15-Feb-14 10:26:08

No comma after "and".

DrankSangriaInThePark Sat 15-Feb-14 10:29:54

Check out number 14 for a graphic example!

SconeRhymesWithGone Sat 15-Feb-14 13:40:54

In US usage, most style guides, especially academic ones, either mandate or recommend use of the serial comma.

Cleanthatroomnow Sat 15-Feb-14 13:54:06

Thanks. DH is US educated, so that may explain the different way of using punctuation. Don't want him to win the argument, though!

SconeRhymesWithGone Sat 15-Feb-14 14:46:35

In the US, we sometimes call it the Harvard comma. smile

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