Does one write “Foxes, rabbits, and frogs” or “Foxes, rabbits and frogs”? That little comma, known as the serial comma, has been hotly disputed for many years.
In Wordsmithy, Douglas Wilson cites a pair of instructive examples which point out that whichever way you stand on this matter, there will be pitfalls. You can’t avoid potential ambiguity.
Here are the two examples:
- “Justin Taylor, editor of Crossway, cites the example of one writer who wanted to thank ‘my parents, Jesus and Ayn Rand.’ See what happens when you leave out the serial comma?”
- “But Andy Le Peau at InterVarsity, points to a different kind of example. Suppose someone were to dedicate his book to ‘my mother, Ayn Rand, and God’? Now the serial comma creates the idea that Ayn Rand is in apposition to mother, which it presumably wasn’t.”