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  1. #106
    Very VIP person Tech Admin Rantz's Avatar
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    Apr 2006


    Quote Originally Posted by Yerushalmi View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Pantz View Post
    Show me an example to the contrary (where the use or non-use of the serial comma is optimally chosen, of course)!
    Your very first sentence was this:
    I took my father, a potato and Michael to see the strippers, JFK, and Stalin.

    Now follow it with this:
    "Then my brothers, John and David, went to the mall."

    This is a classic if-there's-no-serial-comma-it's-ambiguous sentence (you can replace it with a classic if-there-is-a-serial-comma-it's-ambiguous sentence, and reverse the positions of everything in the following two paragraphs; I can't be arsed to write it all out twice).

    In your sentence, you didn't use the serial comma in the first trio because they were obviously three separate items either way, but you did in the second trio to "eliminate the ambiguity". But let's say John and David really are your brothers. Because you were inconsistent in the previous sentence, the reader doesn't know that anymore.

    Had you been consistent in your first sentence, and used the serial comma in both cases, its absence here would have made your meaning in the second sentence clear.
    That's fair enough, although I'd still say that the reader would be just as likely to pick up on the fact that I use serial commas based on context (and determine that if I was referring to four people I would have used one) as they would be to notice a consistent use or non-use of it and go by that. And even if I did use it consistently, the cases where serial commas are normally used are so few and far between that this last sentence could just as easily be mistaken for inconsistency, if they're really paying that much attention to my commas.

    Although if I was facing this problem in a real setting I'd have a much better solution than going over all my commas: I'd phrase the sentence in a clearer way. Basically what I'm arguing is the same thing you said earlier: no hard-and-fast rule is a substitute for clarity.
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  2. #107
    \_(ツ)_/ Tigmafuzz's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
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