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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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March 30, 2017


Cathy Miller

I agree with you, Lynn. Isn't it interesting how passionate people get over the topic? ☺ I figure the lawsuit is an extremely effective way for the serial comma to make its point. ☺

Cathy Miller

P.S. I am struggling with the notion of Al Gore and Daryl Hannah as parents of the author. ☺ See how vital the serial comma is?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Cathy,

Yes, this lawsuit may win some arguments for the comma. I hope so.

So, about Al and Daryl. I was just looking for two environmentalists. No scandal here!

Thanks for stopping by.



LOVE it! I am a big fan of the serial comma. Thank you for this great post and impactful example.


Thank you for the great post!
In Greek, serial comma would be omitted before using an "and" when similar things are listed, as this plays the role of the separator. I thought the same logic applied in other languages and would avoid it. Thank you for pointing it out.

George Raymond

The question certainly is debatable: In French, German, British English and US journalism, the serial comma is unknown or frowned upon. In line with the Associate Press practice Lynn cites above, I use the serial comma only when it eliminates ambiguity.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hello, Marie-Helene, Konstantina, and George, Thanks for your comments.

Marie-Helene, you are welcome. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

Konstantina, I am glad you learned something new about English. I spent five weeks in Greece last fall and I loved it. What a wonderful country!

Hi, George. Yes, the question is debatable, but what are the solid arguments from the other side? I would rather be guilty of over-punctuation than confusion. I believe the Oxford comma is well accepted in British English, no? My "New Oxford Style Manual" recommends it.

I'm glad you all took the time to write.



I always thought that the AP made the choice to leave the serial comma out simply as a space saver and possibly as a work saver back in the typesetting days. Do all the missing serial commas really save space (and, therefore, money)? People smarter than me would have to figure that out.


I'm just wondering... Couldn't they just use "nor" to avoid confusion?
"The overtime law does not apply to the [...] packing for shipment NOR distribution of products."
Would this be correct and have the same meaning or would it be just as confusing?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Laura,

In the days of typesetting, leaving out the comma no doubt saved time and space. I'd have to do a bit of research to learn whether it was more than that. But today? It's hard to imagine either of those issues making a difference.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Deborah, what an interesting suggestion! I consulted "The Gregg Reference Manual" for the answer.

"Gregg" rules against your idea, stating, "Do not use 'nor' in the same clause with any other negative; use 'or' instead." This rule came under a section about using "nor" as a conjunction.

Thanks for joining the discussion.


Maria S

Thank you for an insightful blog once again. Sometimes ambiguity can be removed just by changing the order of items in a series.

I don't think there's much ambiguity in the following series:
•Schedule a meeting with the editor, the projector manager and Janice.
•He dedicated the book to Al Gore, Daryl Hannah and his parents.

That said, the serial comma certainly makes things clearer in your last two examples.

Peter Schreiner

There was a time a while back that you wrote about the serial comma, I've been a fan ever since. Of the comma and of your advice.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Maria,

Thanks for stopping by. Your examples do eliminate the ambiguity. I prefer the serial comma because it normally doesn't require changing the order of things.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Peter, thanks for the thoughtful compliment!


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