Friday, July 20, 2012

Grammar Day: Commas in Lists

Grammar is a tricky subject. With all the rules and exceptions, how can a person keep track? I can't answer that, but I can help with little pieces here and there.

Today's Topic: Commas in Lists

Commas are a complex subject, so there will be a series of posts on them. Today's will be short.

When writing a list of three or more items, commas should separate each item. As a rule, I use the Oxford comma (a comma before the 'and') to avoid possible confusion. 
Red, transparent, and blue.  
NOT: Red, transparent and blue.
How could that be confusing? Consider the meaning of the following sentences.
I'm inspired by my parents, Anne Frank, and Einstein. 
I'm inspired by my parents, Anne Frank and Einstein.
In the first, it's clear the author is inspired by four separate people. In the second...are Anne Frank and Einstein her parents? Unlikely, but in a more realistic example (My parents, Bob, and Mary) the confusion could arise if the second comma is missing.

Final Note: Lists of two do not need commas.
Red and blue. 
NOT: Red, and blue.
I love to learn; let me know what I'm forgetting!

Have a grammatical question? Email me at to learn the answer--and have your question featured in an upcoming Grammar Day post! I'm here to help and encourage in any way I can.

Visit my website to learn more about me, my books, and my proofreading services, or join the Rivershore Books Writing Forum for support from fellow authors.

Still want more? Find me on FacebookPinterestTumblr, and Twitter!

No comments: