Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Grammar... To comma-and or not?

One aspect of my job as the Production Manager at Morris! is QA - Quality Assurance (aka PROOFING); making sure that every item that goes to print gets the once, twice, and sometimes thrice (or more!) over, BEFORE the presses run. While proofing a 100+ page document can prove to be tedious, in the end, it pays off with our clients, who appreciate the extra effort.

One of the items we regularly come up against are grammar issues, PARTICULARLY, the comma-and (, and) relationship when separating elements in a series in a sentence. Some clients use comma-and, and some don't. Our main goal is to obtain consistency throughout the document so, I checked online to see what the actual rule is.

I found this incredible Web site DEVOTED to grammar:

The Guide to Grammar and Writing is sponsored by the Capital Community College Foundation, a nonprofit 501 c-3 organization that supports scholarships, faculty development, and curriculum innovation.

They DO recommend comma-and (, and) to avoid confusion (see below).

Use a comma to separate the elements in a series (three or more things), including the last two. "He hit the ball, dropped the bat, and ran to first base." You may have learned that the comma before the "and" is unnecessary, which is fine if you're in control of things. However, there are situations in which, if you don't use this comma (especially when the list is complex or lengthy), these last two items in the list will try to glom together (like macaroni and cheese). Using a comma between all the items in a series, including the last two, avoids this problem. This last comma—the one between the word "and" and the preceding word—is often called the serial comma or the Oxford comma. In newspaper writing, incidentally, you will seldom find a serial comma, but that is not necessarily a sign that it should be omitted in academic prose.

They also have quizzes on the site, to test your grammatical prowess. I got 100% on this one! See how you do:


Finally, a free, comprehensive, easy-to-understand Web site on grammar. Now, when are we supposed to use those n dashes?


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