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JennaGlatzer
01-31-2007, 03:05 PM
Anyone know if that was a real book dedication, or just a funny example someone made up as an argument in favor of the serial comma? I can't find a reference, just lots of people calling it "apocryphal."

alleycat
01-31-2007, 03:15 PM
Wiki says it apocryphal. I would guess that since an actual book is never cited (that I've seen) that someone made it up as an example.

There is an actually case of a famous writer leaving out a comma in his will and therefore making his true intention impossible to determine. I can't remember who that was at the moment (hey, it's five am where I am).

Medievalist
01-31-2007, 06:51 PM
I first found it in a textbook published in the seventies; I think it was made up.

The Serial Comma Rules !

Bravo
01-31-2007, 06:53 PM
i knew the title was from that comma example, but for some reason, i was totally expecting jenna to come out as a hardcore objectivist.

darn.

that wouldve been funny.

CaroGirl
01-31-2007, 07:37 PM
I agree. I love the serial comma, even when it doesn't necessarily clear up ambiguity. In tech writing, we use it every time. The marketing docs my company produces don't use it (as a rule), which can lead to some hilarious ambiguity (like the Ayn Rand and God example). It's amazing how people don't see the problem, even when it's pointed out.

KCathy
01-31-2007, 07:46 PM
It's Eats, Shoots, and Leaves all over again! Sorry I'm no help. I was hopping in to see what you were saying about Ayn Rand, too.

Pagey's_Girl
01-31-2007, 11:36 PM
For a Rush fan, that line is soda-out-the-nose funny...

Shadow_Ferret
02-01-2007, 12:45 AM
I agree. I love the serial comma, even when it doesn't necessarily clear up ambiguity. In tech writing, we use it every time. The marketing docs my company produces don't use it (as a rule), which can lead to some hilarious ambiguity (like the Ayn Rand and God example). It's amazing how people don't see the problem, even when it's pointed out.
I hate tech writing for that fact, that many companies don't use a comma before "and" in those instances. So then when I'm writing fiction I have to think, to comma, or not to comma?

daoine
02-01-2007, 01:37 AM
Oxford comma (serial) so rules!

JennaGlatzer
02-01-2007, 03:17 AM
Thanks!

Know what's funny? I've never actually heard/seen a writer take the opposite side. There are plenty of us die-hard "Go, serial comma!" people, and I don't know any who would say, "Die, serial comma, die!" Yet plenty of people do leave it out. Are they just not particularly opinionated about it?

Medievalist
02-01-2007, 03:43 AM
Oh dear lord Jenna . . . would that I could say the same.

I've seen writers get in each other's face over this more times than I can count.

And, speaking as an editor, you are entering dangerous territory when you edit a non-serial lover's prose and make it serial.

Editors, though, editors are the worst. I once naively took two editors at a convention to a bar, thinking to make peace with the aid of the barley and the rye.

I had a 175.00 tab, pre tip.

Judg
02-01-2007, 06:33 AM
I remember (or at least I think I remember) being taught in grade school that the comma before the "and" was optional. I must confess, I don't see any ambiguity with or without the comma. What am I missing here?

Oh, just a minute. She's offering Ayn Rand and God to her parents? Still, it seems to me that in the context of a sentence, an alternate reading is not likely to jump up and scream for attention.

JennaGlatzer
02-01-2007, 06:48 AM
Judg, the way it reads, it sounds like the author's parents ARE Ayn Rand and God.

And Lisa: :roll:

ErylRavenwell
02-01-2007, 07:02 AM
Judg, the way it reads, it sounds like the author's parents ARE Ayn Rand and God.

And Lisa: :roll:

It's pretty straight forward. I don't see how this can be confusing.

Tish Davidson
02-01-2007, 11:21 AM
This is really weird. I copied your quote using the copy function on my computer and plugged it into the Google search box. The quote says "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God" (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53779) What comes up in the Google search box is "department of homeland security research interests." If I copy it into a Word document, it comes out as "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God" (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=53779)

Does this happen to anyone else?

alleycat
02-01-2007, 11:41 AM
It's pretty straight forward. I don't see how this can be confusing.
To me, it would be confusing either way (and would be better if it was reworded), but what if it was written without the full name?

To my parents, Jenna and William.

vs.

To my parents, Jenna, and William.

At least in the second example the reader would have a clue that it's to "my parents" AND "Jenna" AND "William".

Personally, I use the serial comma, but I don't think it's too important whether it's used or not in fiction, but it is in non-fiction because there's a good chance that at some point a writer will have to use it to make sense of a series. If you're going to have to use it sometimes, why not use it in all cases.

Now if I can just figure out why I'm offering an opinion in the Grammar forum. I better get outta here before someone finds my fifth-grade English report card.

;-)

Pagey's_Girl
02-01-2007, 11:28 PM
To me, it would be confusing either way (and would be better if it was reworded), but what if it was written without the full name?

To my parents, Jenna and William.

vs.

To my parents, Jenna, and William.

At least in the second example the reader would have a clue that it's to "my parents" AND "Jenna" AND "William".

Personally, I use the serial comma, but I don't think it's too important whether it's used or not in fiction, but it is in non-fiction because there's a good chance that at some point a writer will have to use it to make sense of a series. If you're going to have to use it sometimes, why not use it in all cases.

Now if I can just figure out why I'm offering an opinion in the Grammar forum. I better get outta here before someone finds my fifth-grade English report card.

;-)

I think a good rule of thumb might be whether the two items separated by the "and" are somehow related. For instance, "...and her daughters, Scarlet and Rachel" vs. "...and her daughters, Scarlet, and Rachel." The first one, at least to me, implies that it's referring to two people (her daughters, who are named Scarlet and Rachel) and the second sounds like it's referring to her daughters, another person named Scarlet, and yet another person named Rachel.

I hope that sort of makes sense :)

KTC
02-01-2007, 11:36 PM
I heard that a computer manual writer used it in his acknowledgement page...but I don't know which writer or which manual? I don't even know if it's true?

ErylRavenwell
02-02-2007, 02:32 AM
To me, it would be confusing either way (and would be better if it was reworded), but what if it was written without the full name?

To my parents, Jenna and William.

vs.

To my parents, Jenna, and William.

At least in the second example the reader would have a clue that it's to "my parents" AND "Jenna" AND "William".

Personally, I use the serial comma, but I don't think it's too important whether it's used or not in fiction, but it is in non-fiction because there's a good chance that at some point a writer will have to use it to make sense of a series. If you're going to have to use it sometimes, why not use it in all cases.

Now if I can just figure out why I'm offering an opinion in the Grammar forum. I better get outta here before someone finds my fifth-grade English report card.

;-)


Hmm, I know, but this is not my point. Were it: To my parents, God and Ayn Rand, perhaps, I say perhaps, one could be misled to think one of his parents is God Rand. But God stands alone after the conjunction; there is little room for confusion here.

Sage
02-04-2007, 11:40 PM
Hmm, I know, but this is not my point. Were it: To my parents, God and Ayn Rand, perhaps, I say perhaps, one could be misled to think one of his parents is God Rand. But God stands alone after the conjunction; there is little room for confusion here.
Unless the person were talking about GOD, & not a person named "God." Which is part of what makes it so funny.

KCathy
02-05-2007, 01:38 AM
Are they just not particularly opinionated about it?

I read that and thought, "I know! How can you not care?" Then again, people who aren't as interested in language probably think it's insane to even think about it, much less argue the point. Which is probably why those bizarre arguments I've seen about whether Windows or Mac, Explorer or Firefox is better seem so strange to me but make absolutely perfect sense to techies.


Unless the person were talking about GOD, & not a person named "God." Which is part of what makes it so funny.

I read a comedy bit in that great mysterious "somewhere online" about wanting to live downstairs from a fat guy, so that when accepting awards the comic could confuse everyone by thanking God and "the big man upstairs, too." I love it!

alleycat
02-05-2007, 04:06 AM
Hmm, I know, but this is not my point. Were it: To my parents, God and Ayn Rand, perhaps, I say perhaps, one could be misled to think one of his parents is God Rand. But God stands alone after the conjunction; there is little room for confusion here.
Ayn was ahead of her time. She didn't want to change her last name.

;-)

(Yes, I'm just teasing.)

SpiderGal
02-11-2007, 09:33 PM
I was taught British English at school, so obviously I never really used it during the school years. Infact, we were never even told about it! However, as I now read more and more of American literature, and interact with Americans on forums, the serial comma is gradually becoming a part of my style. Though, after reading the wiki entry on the serial comma, I think its inclusion, or omission for that matter, depends entirely on what you are trying to get that.

For e.g., let's look at this dedication:

For my mother, Ayn Rand, and God

If the writer is making this dedication to three different people, the serial comma only introduces ambiguity in this case. It appears as if Ayn Rand is the mother of the writer.

So, I would say, it really depends.

Soccer Mom
02-13-2007, 01:56 AM
Serial Commas Rule!

::runs away::

robeiae
02-13-2007, 07:12 PM
Anyone know if that was a real book dedication, or just a funny example someone made up as an argument in favor of the serial comma? I can't find a reference, just lots of people calling it "apocryphal."I fail to see any humor in it, whatsoever.

civilian chic
02-18-2007, 08:15 AM
That is my new favorite line!

But technically, the serial comma is "strongly recommend[ed]" by the Chicago Manual of Style, which means for fiction, all fiction, use that sucker. MLA (humanities, research papers) uses it, too. AP (journalistic) style drops it.

It's not really a matter of opinion, unfortunately.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-19-2007, 06:00 AM
Thanks!

Know what's funny? I've never actually heard/seen a writer take the opposite side. There are plenty of us die-hard "Go, serial comma!" people, and I don't know any who would say, "Die, serial comma, die!" Yet plenty of people do leave it out. Are they just not particularly opinionated about it?


Okay, I'll say it if you'd like.


DIE, SERIAL COMMA! DIE!

I don't necessarily agree with it, but...

:)

Ralyks
03-22-2007, 04:06 PM
Add me to the list of proponents for the serial comma. I will add that some people must be adamant. I have had it removed from my writing, and when I have added it to writing I have edited, I have had people "correct" me for adding it. Journalists no longer use it at all. Of course, they no longer use leads or the inverted pyramid either.

Birol
03-22-2007, 04:49 PM
Mac threatened to sing bad 70's songs to me if I didn't agree to make the serial comma part of Coyote Wild's house style. Needless to say, I gave in.