"A, B and C" vs "A, B, and C"(Punctuation)
This is known as the "serial comma" dispute. Both styles are common. The second style was recommended by Fowler, and is Oxford University Press house style (hence it is also called "the Oxford comma"; it is also known as "the Harvard comma"); it is more common in the U.S. than elsewhere. Although either style may cause ambiguity (in "We considered Miss Roberts for the roles of Marjorie, David's mother, and Louise", are there two roles or three?), the style that omits the comma is more likely to do so: "Tom, Peter, and I went swimming." (Without the comma, one might think that the sentence was addressed to Tom.) "I ordered sandwiches today. I ordered turkey, salami, peanut butter and jelly, and roast beef." Without that last comma, one would have a MIGHTY weird sandwich! -- Gabe Wiener. James Pierce reports that an author whose custom it was to omit the comma dedicated a novel: "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God." Non-native speakers are often unnecessarily cautious in their use of English. Someone once posted to alt.usage.english from Japan, asking, "What is the correct thing to say if one is being assaulted: 'Help!' or 'Help me!'?" Not only are they both correct; there was a whole slew of responses asking, "Why the heck would you worry about correctness at a time like that?" It may happen that your post's greatest departure from English idiom is something unrelated to what you are asking about. If you like, say "Please correct any errors in this post"; otherwise, those who answer you may out of politeness refrain from offering a correction. Although not so stratified as some languages, English does have different stylistic levels. In a popular song, you may hear: "It don't make much difference." When speaking to a friend, you will probably want to say: "It doesn't make much difference." If you are writing a formal report, you may want to render it as: "It makes little difference." So it's helpful if when posting, you specify the stylistic level that you're enquiring about. If you prefer to make a query by e-mail, rather than posting to the whole Net, you can send it to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Send e-mail to "email@example.com". They also have an ftp/gopher site, "owl.trc.purdue.edu", and a WWW page, http://owl.english.purdue.edu/. A popular and pleasant site for getting grammar questions answered is the Lydbury Grammar Clinic: http://www.lydbury.co.uk/grammar/index.htm. Another WWW page that may be of interest to learners of English is The Comenius Group's Virtual English Language Center: http://www.comenius.com. If you wish to improve your English by exchanging e-mail with an English-speaker, you can post a request to the newsgroup "soc.penpals". This is free (to you), so you should not pay the fee for Comenius' "E-mail Key Pal Connection". Other grammars are at http://www.edunet.com/english/grammar and http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/.] The misc.education.language.english FAQ is maintained by Meg Gam (firstname.lastname@example.org). At the moment, it lists resources of interest to teachers (not students) of English as a foreign language. If you can't find it in the standard FAQ places, send Meg e-mail with the subject "m.e.l.e. FAQ" and no text. There are some mailing lists that are primarily for people studying English as a foreign language: CHAT-SL (general discussion), DISCUSS-SL (advanced general discussion), BUSINESS-SL (business and economics), ENGL-SL (discussion about learning English), EVENT-SL (current events), MOVIE-SL (movies), MUSIC-SL (music), SCITECH-SL (science, technology, and computers), and SPORT-SL (sports). To subscribe to any of these lists, send a message to email@example.com with, for example, "subscribe DISCUSS-SL" as the body of the message. Roger Depledge writes: "since you rightly show some concern for the non-native speaker, you might care to consider adding to your list of dictionaries the _Collins Cobuild English Dictionary_ (HarperCollins, 2nd ed., 1995, ISBN 0-00-379401-8), all of whose plentiful examples come from their 200-million-word corpus. As a freelance translator in Toulouse, I find it invaluable when my native ear for English fails me. And for usage for the non- specialist, I know of none better than Michael Swan, _Practical English Usage_ (OUP, 2nd ed., 1995, ISBN 0-19-431197-X). In its favour I would cite the 26 reprints of the 1980 edition, and the six pages on taboo words, including the priceless example, 'Bugger me! There's Mrs Smith. I thought she was on holiday.'" Anno Siegel recommends _The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English_, by Morton Benson, Evelyn Benson, and Robert Ilson, Benjamins, 1986, ISBN 90-272-2036-0.
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