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« What is this thing called love? | Main | A grand unified theory of one's own »

April 26, 2004


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You should know, Sissy, that I hate to reference my own writing (actually, that's not true, I absolutely love it), but both your last two posts have made me feel justified in pointing you to a piece I wrote for Salon some years back which celebrates two books (among others) that these two posts have reminded me of: Denis de Rougemont's 1938 Love in the Western World, and the immortal Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler. Both great fun. See http://www.salon.com/books/feature/1999/08/17/crackpots/index.html for more.

Yes. AP and it's damn lack of comma. I hate it. I work as a copy editor in the fabulous world of journalism and I'd KILL to be able to use that comma. It's all fine and well if you're just listing two or three simple things (dogs, cats and chickens) but sentences get complicated really quickly. Furthermore, when it gets overly long and complicated and you have to use semicolons to separate your items, you ALWAYS use the semicolon before that and. So, nyahhh, AP! NYAHHHH!

But remember: The comma usage in this case is a matter of style, not 'correct' usage.

And since I'm a stylin kind of guy, I always use that comma in non-work-related writing.

I was LOL reading your Salon piece on "Crackpot authorities," Mark. Like you, I felt "greatly rewarded, and not a little entertained."


Thanks, Ken, for pointing out that the final serial commas are a matter of style rather than "correct" usage. There is, of course, no accounting for taste.

I think that the use of the Oxford comma is also a matter of intention on the part of the writer, not only for style, but emphasis (or, even, emFAWsis).

That said, I have a vague recollection from (I assume) one of my English teachers (yes, reading and writing used to be called that-I'm an old(er) f*rt). Namely, a comma is like a pause and can be use to indicate such.

Thus "red, white and blue" can be read "red", pause, "white and blue", whereas "red, white, and blue" can be read as "red", pause, "white", pause, and "blue" (or should it be 'pause and "blue"?). Dang, you're right Ken, it does get complicated.... great link Mark, I was LOL too-"most excellent!"

I love how the AP dunderheads don't use the serial comma, but when presented with an analagous list, use what amounts to a serial semicolon:

From http://www.utexas.edu/coc/journalism/SOURCE/journal_links/AP_style.html:

Use a semicolon to set off a series within a series. In this case, use the semicolon before the conjunction. Example: I have lived in Tulsa, Okla.; Daytona Beach, Fla.; Gainesville, Fla.; Houston, Texas; and Austin, Texas.

Shouldn't THAT be omitted by the same rationale?

Bottom line: if they're both "correct" and one is clearer, why would one EVER opt for the less-clear option?


I totally agree, BG, and always strive for both rhetorical and visual clarity.

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