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Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Dozen Uses for Commas, Part 5

We've been talking about commas for more than a month, and this week I think it's time to talk about serial commas. Serial commas refer to the use of commas between items in a list, and this is admittedly a controversial topic. (Somehow that sentence makes me laugh. People get worked up over grammar? Oh, wait, I'm one of those people.)

Unfortunately, like the dreaded punctuation-inside-quotes rule, the majority does not seem to be going my way on this one.

Personally, I do NOT put a comma before the conjunction in a series or list:

Today we're going to go for a walk, play a game and take a nap.

To me, a comma implies a *pause*, and I think the conjuction takes the place of that pause in a series.

However, current grammar rules are suggesting that that final comma should be included. I say "current" because the pendulum has swung back and forth on this one several times, and I say "suggesting" because it's not a hard and fast rule.

Transcription Talk includes posts on grammar, getting started, and increasing your productivity.

You should check with your contracts and clients on their preferences, but in my experience, they do not have one except that you be consistent throughout your transcripts regardless of which way you choose.


Blue Rose said...

A lot of the usage for the series comma depends on whether it's British English or American English. American English usage dictates that the comma be placed before the conjunction in a series, and British usage omits the comma before the conjunction.

As a transcriptionist, one of the things I ask a new client is which way they prefer it to be done. Most of my clients are from America, and they usually prefer the comma before the conjunction, but I do have some that prefer it be omitted. All of my overseas clients prefer that the comma before th conjunction be omitted.

anne said...

Just what I was going to say, blue rose, except that most of my clients are British as I'm UK based, and prefer the comma to be omitted.