Monday, August 27, 2007

The Confusing Comma, 2

Today we’re talking about the serial comma. (For those of us who write mysteries, suspense, or thrillers—that’s comma, not killer. :-) ) According to the Chicago Manual of Style, the serial comma is the one before the conjunction in a series of words, phrases, or independent clauses. It helps keep the meaning clear to the reader, in my opinion.

For example:
Roger used a hammer, nails, and glue to repair the cabin’s window.
You may write an essay, read a book, or do your homework in this study hall.
Mary went to the store, Carol walked around the track, and Sharon stopped in for coffee.

However, if a conjunction is used between each of the elements in a series, no comma is needed.

For example:
Roger used a hammer and nails and glue to repair the cabin’s window.
You may write an essay or read a book or do your homework in this study hall.
This morning Mary went to the store and Carol walked around the track and Sharon stopped in for coffee.

While most book publishers follow the Chicago Manual of Style and use the serial comma, I know of several who don’t. One of the trends in grammar today is to use fewer commas, and this is one area where many believe less is better.

Consistency is the key to including or excluding the comma before the conjunction. This isn’t something that’s going to be a major roadblock to getting a contract. Once your book is contracted, the copy editors and proofreaders will make sure the serial comma is used according to house style.

As to other “news,” I will be hosting three more blog tours in the next six weeks: Montana Mistletoe, September 14; The Restitution, by MaryLu Tyndall, September 29; and The Begotten and The Betrayed by Lisa Tawn Bergren, October 3. All three of these books are excellent examples of their genres, and I’m happy to host these talented authors. If you missed the blog tour for Allison Bottke's latest fiction book, One Little Secret, see the August 23 post.

Have a great week! Check back in on Thursday for another installment in our grammar tips.

No comments: