Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writing 101: Serial Comma

I don't often wax poetic about the finer points of punctuation (or even, really, address them), because everywhere I look people are still using 's to pluralize words so I don't much see the point in it. However, the serial comma question keeps coming up again and again. So how are indie authors supposed to address it in their books? 

Once, and for All

Serial commas are the kind of thing that only writers would ever think about. Most people don't even notice whether or not they're using them. Are you...or do you only think you're using serial commas? 

If you list specific items such as books, ereaders, and tablets, you might be using a serial comma. I just did, in fact. 

But when I write and I have to list something, be it certain characteristics, physical attributes or personal motives, I don't use the serial comma. Can you see how it's missing in that example?

Apples, oranges, and bananas --- serial comma

Grapes, melon and berries --- no serial comma

A serial comma is the comma that appears before the conjunction in a sentence. That's usually the word and, or and but. And in most forms of magazine and newspaper writing it isn't used. Serial commas are commonly mentioned when it comes to AP style, because here they're not used

However, such rules of style do not exist when it comes to writing novels. So when it comes to using (or not using) the serial comma, the choice is yours. This is one rule of punctuation that you don't have to pay serious attention to, so relish it. This won't happen often.

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