We use fewer commas today if the meaning is clear without them
Punctuation is becoming more minimal and we are tending to drop unnecessary commas. I answer people’s questions in my monthly e-newsletter and here are a few that might interest you.
Commas and dates
Reader’s question: Is a comma necessary after a date at the beginning of a sentence. For example:
In June 2009, the Commission decided…
Answer: There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
I would use a comma after a date at the beginning of a sentence because it indicates a pause.
However, I notice that many writers are dropping this comma because the sentence is clear without it.
It is becoming more common to omit commas after brief introductory phrases.
You decide on this issue!
Commas with etc.
Reader’s question: Do you need a comma before etc. in a list?
Answer: I don’t think you need a comma before etc., but not everyone agrees. You decide!
apples, peaches, apricots, etc.
apples, peaches, apricots etc.
A related punctuation point is : Do you need a full stop after etc.? I still use a full stop because etc. is an abbreviation for et cetera, but I notice that some writers are dropping the full stop.
What do you think about punctuation with etc.?
Oxford or serial comma
Reader’s question: Where do you stand on commas before and in a sentence? For example:
He is a talented rower, skier, and footballer.
Answer: Such commas are known as the Oxford or serial comma. I don’t think you need an Oxford comma in the example you have given.
The Oxford comma is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.
They are useful to prevent confusion, for example, to indicate that two items within a sentence belong together.
They should seek the support of landholders, philanthropists, government, and community and industry groups.
We took tomatoes, cottage cheese, and pepper and salt.
An urban myth tells the story of a woman who left her estate to Jane, William, Mary and Anne.
Jane and William argued that the estate should be divided into three, with Mary and Anne sharing a third.
Use of an Oxford comma (Jane, William, Mary, and Anne) would have prevented this dispute.
Read my other posts on commas:
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