© Nani, 2013

31. When Do I Use Commas?

C. In serial lists (containing three or more subjects, phrases, or clauses)

I. Commas clarify items in a list that are connected by the concept of the thought, but otherwise disconnected from each other. In this case, always separate these items by commas—up to and including the last item. This is known as the Serial or Oxford comma.

•  Example: “Mesopotamia is better understood not only as a place but as a series of cultures that exhibited common beliefs, patterns of development, conquest and defeat, and who lived and died in an area roughly centered in the land between the rivers.”
•  Example: “Caesar was bold, brave, and successful.”

II. Some departments and publishers will specifically request the omission of the Oxford comma. Always follow the guidelines of the party for whom you are writing. When it is not explicitly stated, however, employ the Oxford (see section 33 for rules on consistency).


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