CE Poll: Do you use the serial comma?


The serial comma, also known as the Oxford or Harvard comma, is a sure way to get writers and readers everywhere fired up. People who care about grammar almost always have a stance on its use. We want to know what you think about the serial comma and its usage in writing.


What Is It?

The serial comma is the comma before ‘and’ or ‘or’ in a list or series.

  • With the serial comma: Please buy bread, milk, and eggs.
  • Without the serial comma: Please buy bread, milk and eggs.

In this example, taking out the serial comma does not make much of a difference. The sentence is understandable either way. In some sentences, things get less clear. Here is a classic example, an imagined book dedication:

  • To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

The reader may eventually be able to discern the meaning — that the book is dedicated to three separate entities — but it seems to imply one strange set of parents.


Who Uses It?

There is no finite answer to this question; some people use it and some do not. Originally, it was used by the Oxford and Harvard University presses, which led to its alternate name. It is still associated with academia and widely taught in schools. News reporters generally do not use it. They follow AP Style, which advises against using it unless absolutely necessary. One of AP Style’s main goals is to save space, and the simple sentences journalists aspire to are usually clear without the extra comma.

The main arguments for the comma are clarity and consistency. Sentences are most clear and readable with the extra comma. Even those who do not typically use the comma may sometimes have to. Those who argue for the comma say that, if the serial comma is ever going to be used, it should always be used.

The main argument against the comma is that is unnecessary. Simple sentences are clear without it, and instances when it is needed to reduce ambiguity can be solved in other ways.

The book dedication example used above can be clarified WITHOUT a serial comma:

  • Unclear: To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.
  • Clarified: To Ayn Rand, God and my parents.

The clarified example makes it obvious the dedication is to three separate entities, and there is no serial comma in sight. Sentences that are more complex probably cannot be solved by the serial comma and should instead be split into multiple sentences or completely retooled.


Should I Use It?

This is up to each writer, or whoever they are writing for. Students can find out their teachers’ preferences and apply them appropriately. Professional writers should follow the style guide or guidelines from their workplace. People who are writing for themselves can do whatever they want when it comes to the serial comma.

The most important thing when considering serial comma usage is consistency. Whether that means using or not using the serial comma is a matter of opinion. Share your thoughts with us on Facebook!



QuickandDirtyTips.com: Grammar Girl
grammarly blog
The Poynter Institute
“Business Insider” from May 1, 2015
“Business Insider” from Sept. 20, 2013

CE Highlight: Kids West Family Night

The Jordan Creek Elementary Kids West site held a luau-themed family night on Thursday, May 21. Families received leis when they entered, took photos with fun props, participated in different luau-themed activities, and ate a meal together.

Monthly Motivation: Sun Safety Tips

sunglassesStronger sun is associated with summer, but UV rays start to increase in spring, even before the temperature starts to rise. Playing outdoors is a great way to keep kids active, but protecting their skin from harmful rays can be a challenge. Here are some sun safety tips from the Center for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society :


Find shade
This seems obvious, but is still important. Keep this in mind especially when the sun is strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or when your shadow is shorter than you are.

Protect your skin
There are many ways to do this, including covering up with clothing and hats and wearing sunscreen. Make sure sunscreen is an appropriate SPF, and that you can’t see sunlight through clothing. If you can, it can also get through to your skin.

Wear sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses is common, but wearing sunglasses that truly protect eyes is not. Many people wear fashion sunglasses or sunglasses that do not wrap around far enough. Find glasses that cover the whole eye area and that block both UVA and UVB rays. The best sunglasses will block 99-100 percent of the rays.

CE Today: May 6 — Roger Bannister Runs the First Four-Minute Mile

Roger Bannister became the first person to run a four-minute mile on May 6, 1954. Bannister was a medical student and prepared for the race by studying the mechanics of running and developing new training regimens. He completed the now-famous mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds at the Iffley Road track in Oxford for the annual match between the Amateur Athletic Association and Oxford University, Bannister’s alma mater.

Before Bannister’s May 6 run, the four-minute mile was considered an impossible feat. The world record for a mile at the time was 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds, and had been set in 1945, nearly ten years before. Completing a four-minute mile became a goal for many runners in the early 1950s. Bannister did not hold the record for long, and retired for athletics at the end of 1954. He published a book about his accomplishment in 1955, became a neurologist, and was knighted in 1975 by Queen Elizabeth II.

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Use Roger Bannister as inspiration or look for more modern motivation by following the #LetsMove and #MoveInMay hashtags on social media.


This Day in History
Get Moving in May for National Physical Fitness and Sports Month
First Four Minute Mile-HQ(Roger Bannister:1954)