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Editor's Notes #41, Comma Use, Book Review, and Writing Contest June 9, 2007
June 09, 2007

The comma is the most frequently used (and abused)
aid to reading.

--Vincent Hopper

In this issue:

1. Comma Use #1
2. Book Review
3. Writing Contest

1. Comma Use #1

The punctuation mistakes I see most involve commas. My experience seems to parallel that of other editors.

Coming issues of Editor's Notes will deal with uses of commas. The first use is the most common.

A comma separates a series of words, phrases, or clauses. If we didn't have the comma, we would need a conjunction. Tom, Dick, Harry = Tom and Dick and Harry

We usually add either and or or before the final element in the list.

A comma before the conjunction (and or or) is optional. When I went to school, we were told not to use it. Now it is used more often than not.

I strongly recommend that you use the final comma, called a "series comma," because it clarifies meaning.

Examples: I ate, bread, cheese, and pickles for lunch.

I made peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, and egg salad sandwiches.

I ate the rice, I ate the curry, and I ate the bananas.

A special case. . .

When a list of adjectives describes something a comma separates those elements that could be separated by the word and.

You want to write about a tree.

It's an apple tree.

It's tall.

It's green.

It's leafy.

You could write It's a tall and green and leafy apple tree so the commas are used like this. . .

It's a tall, green, leafy apple tree.

Notice that in cases like these, we do not use and before the final part of the list.

2. Book Review I recently reviewed The First Five Pages, a book I think you'll like. The full review is at

3. Writing Contest A new writing contest is posted at

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