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Comma Frustration Options
fred
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 9:37:38 AM
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I have arguments in the office about commas. Hey, better than Obama and the economy.

1, 2, and 3.

Not
1, 2 and 3.

Who is related below:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Chad and Jeremy.

Now who is related:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Chad and Jeremy.
Spanish Teacher
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 9:55:07 AM
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Location: United States
In regards to your example of "1, 2, and 3":

It is interesting to note that in Spanish, for example, the formal practice here would be "1, 2 and 3" (no comma separating "2" or "and") Unfortunately, I do not know why this is. It could come down to a preference in a particular style, and therefore an adherence to it.
AJC
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 10:18:01 AM
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I just always have problems with commas. I thought your second example was correct. However, I find myself wanting to insert commas as I type as pauses in speach. Hey Grammargeek, is there a rule? Are there multiple rules with exceptions as with most of the English language? I's like to settle this once and for all.
JPK
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 10:26:54 AM
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I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that my mother tongue is French, but I also prefer "1, 2 and 3". If you consider that you usually end an enumeration with an "and", I don't see why there should also be an extra comma.

In your second example, I probably would use italics or something because it can be confusing either way. I don't see the confusion as being between the two groups, but as being within Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Is it all one group, or is it 1) Crosby, 2) Stills and then 3) Nash and Young?

The extra comma doesn't solve this. It is obviously not Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Chad because you wouldn't use "and" twice, would you?

Maybe I am looking at it wrong, but I think this is meant to be an unsolvable debate, like who came first between the egg and the hen.

Easy ways to avoid confusion include italics (my favorite) or using semicolons (;) between elements.
bugdoctor
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:04:43 AM
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Luftmarque
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:23:48 AM

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It is stylistic, and does vary with country, but I always use the terminal comma in a list, for the reaon fred gave. When I have a hierarchy of list items I use a semi-colon for the higher level.
AJC
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:39:05 AM
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Thanks Bug
alliejoan
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 12:14:00 PM
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Certain Government styles requires the extra comma in a list, if that helps at all.
Geeman
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 1:58:15 PM

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fred wrote:
I have arguments in the office about commas. Hey, better than Obama and the economy.

1, 2, and 3.

Not
1, 2 and 3.

Who is related below:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Chad and Jeremy.

Now who is related:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Chad and Jeremy.


When I was a kid (many moons ago) I was taught that the comma before the "and" in a list of 3+ was optional, but the teacher recommended it to avoid any whiff of confusion. I did it for many years simply because I thought it looked a little nicer. Now, though, I think it's redundant, given the role of the conjunction, so I leave it out unless doing so might make the sentence confusing.

In your second example, you might use a semi-colon as a "super-comma." Though we don't really have a context, "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Chad and Jeremy" reads like one group with six people in it, four of whom are paired off for some reason, or it looks like four groups, the last two being duos. "Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; and Chad and Jeremy" looks like two groups.
grammargeek
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 2:18:42 PM
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Geeman wrote:
When I was a kid (many moons ago) I was taught that the comma before the "and" in a list of 3+ was optional, but the teacher recommended it to avoid any whiff of confusion. I did it for many years simply because I thought it looked a little nicer. Now, though, I think it's redundant, given the role of the conjunction, so I leave it out unless doing so might make the sentence confusing.

The same is true for me; however, out of habit, I think I'm about equally apt to use that last optional comma as I am to omit it.
JazDad
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 8:45:22 PM
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bugdoctor wrote:


bugdoctor,
According to "The Great Thoughts," George Seldes, ed., Ballantine Books, New York, 1985, the quote you proffer is by Gerald R. Ford, as referenced in Time on 8 November, 1976.

It is one of my favorite quotes, and is surprisingly attributed to a man who said little else of note, so thought I would try to defend him.

To the rest of the forum,

I was taught that a comma precedes an "and" in a list of three or more, and is also used to denote a pause (or breath) within a standard sentence, as it generally indicates a sub-clause. I think standard speech will justify this, but I don't have an authority to reference, and have seen so many usages that I am unlikely attempt to provemy point by extensive academic research.

But it is one of those things that can irritate people one way or another. My maternal grandmother, put commas, in every sentence, she ever wrote, maybe because, she learned English, after, speaking German for the first, years of years of her life. ;-)
MissMary
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 10:28:30 PM
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Location: United States
When faced with a list such as you write, I go the semicolon route to separate items not related.
Geeman
Posted: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:31:49 PM

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Location: Whittier, California, United States
grammargeek wrote:
The same is true for me; however, out of habit, I think I'm about equally apt to use that last optional comma as I am to omit it.


Weirdly enough, I still catch myself writing the comma longhand, but I don't do it when I type.... I'm not quite sure what that's about.
tchensa
Posted: Friday, October 9, 2009 5:42:47 AM
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Location: Belgium
in french ( I don't know for english) as laid out in the Grevisse grammar book : no comma before the " and"
The comma are use to seperate "group of idea" in a sentence, ( in the goal of giving a meaning and to help for the understanding) and to make breath into it
So, if we use a comma + "and" we put 2 breaths in the same place in the sentance and it's not correct.

BUT in french we like the exceptions:

we use a comma before "and" IF there if more 3 "and" in the list: I like X ,and Y ,and M ,and P ,and L

we use a comma before "and" IF the "And" seperates a list using the "and" , from an other group of idea : I take my boots and my stick , and I go for a walk.

we use a comma before "and" IF "and" seperates 2 groups of idea without the same subject and if "and" is use in the first part.
My mother and my brother have came at my home , and I didn't have drinks for them.

The contruction of sentance in our both langages are nearly the same...I don't know if it's the same in english, but it seems that it would be logical that you can use the same rule. d'oh! don't you think?


And finally, small question: Which book of grammar is the reference in English?
teacher77
Posted: Friday, October 9, 2009 5:57:15 AM
Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/18/2009
Posts: 47
Neurons: 146
I have arguments in the office about commas. Hey, better than Obama and the economy.

1, 2, and 3.

Not
1, 2 and 3.

Who is related below:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Chad and Jeremy.

Now who is related:
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Chad and Jeremy.


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Well according to the English, 1,2 and 3 is appropriate.

Your second querry on who's related in: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Chad and Jeremy is actually finding fault with "standard English." That kind of sentence can appropriately appear in countries where dialects from other countries have come to corrupt the English language. For example, an English who pays a lot of attention to grammar may be embarrassed in the US to hear a sentence like this "There's friends everywhere" which of course is acceptable in the US but would be grammatically out of place in the UK where it would be "There are friends everywhere." As the English language is continuously crossing boarders, it's obvious that it can pick up or drop some load along the way.
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