Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Serial comma

I learned to write without a serial comma. I only started using one when I started working in publishing, because my employer's house style indicated a serial comma. I thought it felt a little clumsy, a little inelegant, at first. But I got used to it, and then I got to like it. I like the order of it -- the partitioned chunk, chunk, chunk of a list neatly arranged in comma-bounded boxes. These days, its absence actively bugs me.

According to the Wikipedia article, most newspapers' styleguides recommend against it, including the New York Times, possibly, it suggests, for economy of space. But that doesn't mean that I don't wince when I read headlines like today's Democrats Clash on Trade, Health and Rival Tactics in today's Times. I know it's perfectly correct, it just... sets my teeth on edge.


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