Archive for the ‘English’ Category

Someone emailed me to tell me that I’m using commas incorrectly. I, may, be. Specifically, this reader wanted to point out my misuse of serial commas. I shouldn’t be using them between the last two items of a series, they said.

Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, I know that rule. I just purposely ignore it.

In case anyone’s not familiar with the serial comma dilemma (and why should you be?), here’s a sentence that uses one:

“I got your email, read it, and deleted it.”

The serial comma is the comma between the phrase “read it” and the phrase “and deleted it.” In American newspapers, that sentence would look like this:

“I got your email, read it and deleted it.”

No serial comma. How come? Because it saves space, and for a newspaper, saved space = saved money. For simple sentences, it works fine. But in others, the omission of serial commas leads to problems of clarity. Let’s say you’re looking for a job and you see this in the classifieds section:

“Involves restocking shelves, cleaning, and serving customers.”

But then you see a very similar ad in the LA Times, only now it looks like this:

“Involves restocking shelves, cleaning and serving customers.”

I mean, times are tough right now. Sometimes you have to bend your own rules. But are you sure that second job doesn’t include giving customers a sponge bath?

So there you have it, folks. Why I purposely use serial commas. Because I am afraid of touching other naked men. Next week: Why when I spell things wrngo I’m doing that on prupose two.

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