English people - Comma "and" rule?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by MissEducation, Oct 22, 2009.

  1. MissEducation

    MissEducation Companion

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    I was taught in school that when you have a list of items, you do not use a comma before "and." For ex: "She ate apples, pears, peaches and grapes." The reasoning behind this was that in a list, the comma replaces "and" - the comma is used so that you do not have to say "She ate apples and pears and peaches and grapes." Therefore, when you use "and" you do not need to use a comma.

    Some of my teachers said it was optional to put a comma before "and" and some said absolutely not to do it. NONE of my teachers said we SHOULD use it. Now I notice that the rule seems to have changed. All my kids tell me they have been taught to use the comma and several reputable websites say to use it. Different reputable websites say not to use it, however.

    Because it was drilled into me I HATE seeing it used this way. Which way is correct?
     
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  3. glaciergirl

    glaciergirl Rookie

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I was taught the same way you were. However, the new rule is to use the comma. You get used to it, after about five years...lol.
     
  4. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Oct 22, 2009

    The high school kids I've worked with have been taught not to use it. I was taught it was optional. I prefer to use it, but since it's optional I don't bother trying to change the way the kids use that particular punctuation.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I was taught that we SHOULD use the comma before the and, but that it was technically optional. I've always used one.

    I also remember hearing that certain types of writing, especially more technical stuff, don't ever use the comma before the and. An example of this would be a newspaper article, which should be as concise as possible.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I always use one now, even though I learned not to. However, it is one of the first things I omit if I am over the number of "allowed" characters when writing report cards or an IEP.
     
  7. CanukTeacher

    CanukTeacher Comrade

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    Oct 22, 2009

    Grammar rules do change. Either is acceptable.
     
  8. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Oct 22, 2009

    I always use one before the 'and', though I believe it is optional.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    It is indeed optional. I generally use it, especially in cases such as this

    For lunch they offered pot roast, vegetable frittata, and macaroni and cheese.

    in which the comma clarifies that "macaroni and cheese" is one choice rather than two.

    I'm happier, however, when and, but, and or aren't FOLLOWED by commas.
     
  10. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    I was taught not to, and usually don't add one. But I've always wondered the same thing!
     
  11. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Oct 22, 2009

    It's a matter of debate and therefore optional. It's referred to as the Oxford Comma. You can do some research on it and present it to your students if you like. :)
     
  12. Soccer Dad

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    It's funny that you should mention this, I just recently had this discussion with my kids. They said they were taught that they should ALWAYS use it as it adds clarity. That makes me happy, I hate when it's not used!

    Others that took honors English were taught the optional rule.

    But I will always support the Oxford Comma being placed before the and. It adds clarity. For instance, "I dedicate this book to God, my mom and dad." I got this example from Wikipedia (don't shoot!). Without the comma before and, one can take that sentence to mean that the author thinks his/her parents are God. But consider:
    "I dedicate this book to God, my mom, and my dad." Now, it's obvious that it is dedicated to three separate people.
     
  13. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    I'm "pro-comma" too. :)
     
  14. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    I was always taught no comma but my editor at the online zine insists upon one, so there you have it.
     
  15. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Oh man. my friends and I were up until way too late discussing this last weekend over coffee. (Yes, we are nerds.) We ended up with sentences diagrammed on our table cloth. I don't even remember what we decided. I know that I do not use the oxford Comma, unless it is needed for the meaning of the sentence.
     
  16. Teaching_101

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    Oct 23, 2009

    There's no way I couldn't add my two cents to this question :)

    In America, the "rule" is that that Oxford Comma is optional. In my opinion, there is no option: the Oxford Comma should always be used (with the reasoning of Soccer Dad a couple of posts before me).

    With that being said, the difference comes from American usage and British usage. British usage tries to never use the Oxford comma (believing that it looks as if it "mars" the page).

    In American usage, its usage changes from one publication style to another. For instance, in journalism you almost never see the Oxford Comma (due to the reasoning that the Oxford Comma "slows down" the reading process, thus undermining contemporary purposes of journalism -- to give quick, snapshot information to the public). However, in academic publications (such as peer-reviewed journals and the such), the Oxford Comma is almost always used to increase clarity, especially since the information in these types of publications is usually dense and hard to get through.

    For me, clarity is always a top priority in any paper that is written. There is just too much room for ambiguity when the Oxford Comma is not used. I'll leave you with an example:

    The deceased mother left her inheritance to be split among Ashley, Lucy and Whitney.

    vs.

    The deceased mother left her inheritance to be split among Ashley, Lucy, and Whitney.

    If you were one of her three daughters, which sentence would you prefer?
     
  17. MissEducation

    MissEducation Companion

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    Wow, thanks for all this great info! Very interesting. I will definitely present it to my students. The "God, my mom and dad" example is very funny :)

    MissCeliaB, I can relate to the discussing comma rules over coffee. I have a friend and I who took linguistics together in college and we used to LOVE to get together to do our homework!
     
  18. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Linguistics and English homework--talk about two very opposite perspectives on language. :whistle:
     
  19. Soccer Dad

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    The way I look at it is that you can never be wrong if you use the comma. Granted, it's sometimes correct to not use it, but that doesn't always ensure clarity. Using it everytime, does.

    Language changes constantly. For instnace, take Spanish. South American countries don't include the "you all" endings that Spain uses. English is the same way as Teaching 101 mentioned.
     
  20. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    :lol: Did you do that on purpose? 'Fess up!
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

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    Oct 24, 2009

    As in the regrettable sentence

    And, with six you get eggroll!
     
  22. mom2sands

    mom2sands Comrade

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    Oct 24, 2009

    I was taught not to use it unless the meaning was blurred, but when I went back to school, it seemed that it was the norm to use it, so I changed my ways. I still have the dilemna when I'm writing of whether or not to use it.
     
  23. peachacid

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    Oct 26, 2009

    It's not a new rule. It's an old rule. Both are accepted. The comma after the list is often called the Oxford or Harvard comma as there is an element of elitism in using them, but some people were taught to use it when others weren't.

    Anyway, neither is wrong.
     
  24. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Aww. There is nothing regrettable about ANY Doris Day movie. :D
     
  25. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  26. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I think it should be, "And, with six, you get eggroll."
     
  27. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    That would be fine, 'daisy.
     
  28. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Thank you, TG. Who eats shoots and leaves?
     
  29. Teaching_101

    Teaching_101 Companion

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    Pandas :)

    I just got finished reading that book :)
     
  30. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    Yep, they do. Did you like the book? I enjoyed it. There's one for kids, too, right?
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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  32. deserttrumpet

    deserttrumpet Comrade

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    I was always taught to use a coma. A few years ago I asked an English teacher her take on it and her response was to use it. Her reasoning was somewhere (I'm afraid I don't remember the specifics) a person argued in court over an inheritance. The inheritance had been a list of three people without the coma (Harry, Dick and Tommy). It was ruled that because there was not a coma the third person did not receive the inheritance. Probably a good example of stupid court ruling, however, with that in mind I use the oxford coma.
     
  33. hatima

    hatima Devotee

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    I was taught orginally a list never needs a final comma. But, I allways added it. In college I stopped and was marked down and told I had to use it. So I teach kids to use the final comma before "and."
     
  34. BerniceBobs

    BerniceBobs Comrade

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    Only put a comma before "and" if that "and" is prefacing an independent clause.
    For instance: The teacher gave us books, pencils, paper, and she told us to bring them to class every day.
    Otherwise, you're right An "and" supersedes the need for a comma.
     
  35. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Books, pencils, and paper are conjoined as objects of the verb give; a conjunction (in this case and) is required before the last of them, since the following clause isn't even part of the same verb phrase.

    In any case, that comma before and is well accepted.
     
  36. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I would think that whoever was in the coma would have to die before any inheritance was dispersed. :lol:
     
  37. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Oh, czacza - the self-control it took me not to pounce on that...
     
  38. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I couldn't help myself.... :blush:
     
  39. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Good heavens: the Know-It-More Plenipotentiary of A to Z has had more self-control than you? Maybe I'm growing up a little after all...
     
  40. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I admit to certain gaps in my self-control monitoring filter.
     
  41. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I'm convicted of more than gaps, but it doesn't much stop me, alas.
     

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