Sometimes I love to ramble and tell stories about my day, about living in Manhattan, or about the awesome/eye opening/can't-look-away reality television I so love to watch.
(Speaking of which, is anyone as fascinated by the marriage courtships on 19 Kids and Counting as I am???)
But no, I will not be sidetracked!
Today we are going to examine one of the most common errors I see in writing. And I'm talking across the board: resumes, cover letters, college essays, blog posts...you name it!
What's the cause of this pesky little problem?
Commas can be used in a zillion different ways, but today we are going to look at how to use commas for items in a list. People often ask which of the following is correct:
I went shopping for summer sandals at Macy's, Nordstrom Rack, and DSW.
I went shopping for summer sandals at Macy's, Nordstrom Rack and DSW.
Which is correct?
As it turns out, they both are. It's surprising that a punctuation rule is so user-friendly, amiright?
That last comma before the "and" is called a serial comma, and the truth is that a serial comma simply not required. The sentence will still make sense without it, so sometimes newspapers will omit the last comma to save a teeny tiny bit of space. Using a serial comma is considered a style choice.
You may choose to add a serial comma to your writing or you may choose to leave it out, but the main thing to remember is that your commas should be consistent. If you decide you love using the serial comma, you have to use it in every one of your lists within a single piece of writing--even if your paper is 30 pages long.
And that seems to be the biggest problem.
So when you're writing a blog, a cover letter, or an essay, always make sure you're following the same structure each time you create a list of three items or more.
As for me, I decided way back in seventh grade (seriously...school nerd) that I love the serial comma. I love the way it looks, I love the way it separates each item in a list, and I love that it feels so right to me. (See how I just used the serial comma in that list?) And ever since then, I have used serial commas in absolutely everything I write. By using the same format in every aspect of my writing, I cut down on a lot of potential comma errors.
But that's my two cents. :)
Are you looking for more grammar help? Join my email list and then leave a comment below with your problem spots, your woes, your most-Googled grammar questions, and I'll add them to the brand-new cheat sheet I'm creating: Stuff You Missed in English Class.
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