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Which is better? (or does it make no difference?)

A, B, and C

or

A, B and C

--SirTas
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How many balloons do I have? I have a red, white and blue.

How many balloons do I have? I have red, white, and blue.

MichaelR
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Which is better? (or does it make no difference?)

It makes no difference as long as you're consistent which way you do it.

It's a style thing. Depends which stylebook you subscribe to.

MOI
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Strictly a difference in style.

I usta be a no-comma person for the last two items in a series. Hated that extra, needless comma. But for so long I've had to work with copy editors who insisted on it, and after a while it was the missing final comma that came to seem wrong.

So do what you prefer.


sheila
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How many balloons do I have? I have a red, white and blue.

How many balloons do I have? I have red, white, and blue.



What happened to the marbles? ;-)
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It's a style thing. Depends which stylebook you subscribe to.


Teaches me to answer without reading the other posts first!


sheila
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How many balloons do I have? I have a red, white and blue.

How many balloons do I have? I have red, white, and blue.



What happened to the marbles? ;-)

Sheila


Lost them years ago figuratively and literally.

MichaelR
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Which is better? (or does it make no difference?)

It makes no difference as long as you're consistent which way you do it.

It's a style thing. Depends which stylebook you subscribe to.

MOI


If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and white, I have two balloons. If I have a red, a blue, and a white, I have three. Comma placement distinguishes number. If I have categories A, B and C, I have two categories; if A, B, and C, three.

What bugs me is comma placement with ‘and’. Too many put the comma ahead of it. ‘This is a tasty dish, and if you like tuna, you’ll like this a lot.’ Proper is ‘This is a tasty dish and, if you like tuna, you’ll like this a lot.’

I admit I was one of those editors who got persistent about commas.

MichaelR
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If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and white, I have two balloons. If I have a red, a blue, and a white, I have three. Comma placement distinguishes number.


Not so fast.

Note the bolding. It's not the added comma in your second example that clarifies meaning. It's the article "a" that you also added. Add that "a" in your first sentence and your three balloons are crystal clear, final comma or no.

If all you add is the final comma -- "If I have some balloons, a red, a blue, and white, I have three -- the meaning does comes across but the construction's a tad awkward. But adding just that one little "a" -- "If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white, I have three" -- that extra comma is superfluous.


But when it comes to this.....What bugs me is comma placement with ‘and’. Too many put the comma ahead of it....... Total agreement. It's a real peeve of mine!


sheila
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Ah, the comma. I attended grade, junior high and high school during the later 1940's and the 1950's. I was taught that when listing three or more nouns, there was always a comma before the "and." My college English professors found nothing wrong with that. My junior partner attended grade, junior high and high school during the 1960's and the early 1970's. She had the same teachers that I had. They taught her the same thing they had taught me. Her college English professors found that she had been taught incorrectly and that there should never be a comma in front of that "and" (or so she has told me for the last 25 years in our ongoing argument concerning same). My children went to grade, junior high and high school during the later 1970's and the 1980's (same school system, different teachers). They learned it the way my junior partner does it -- no comma in front of the "and." Being a traditionalist, I continue to punctuate as I learned it (except when my Supreme Court insists on the later approach -- I may be traditional, but I "ain't" stupid). I find the style books split on the subject; it seems to be a function of their date of publication.

Another usage that seems to have changed is the use of the comma to set off a date. I was taught that proper usage was "the meeting has been set for one o'clock p. m. on Friday, September 14, 2007, in Room 204 . . . ." I am now informed by my junior partner, my secretaries and my computer that the comma after 2007 is improper. Oh well, I'm retiring shortly and won't have to worry about that anymore. ;-)

Cal
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If all you add is the final comma -- "If I have some balloons, a red, a blue, and white, I have three -- the meaning does comes across but the construction's a tad awkward. But adding just that one little "a" -- "If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white, I have three" -- that extra comma is superfluous.

Sheila


Nope, the comma is necessary. ‘If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white,” I still have two balloons: one of them a blue and a white. The comma is not superfluous because it divides ‘blue’ and ‘white’ into singulars. While it could be argued the ‘a’ defines singularity, adding the comma nails division.

Or this:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.


Kipling solved the comma problem by not having one. It’s a group picture.

But when it comes to this.....What bugs me is comma placement with ‘and’. Too many put the comma ahead of it....... Total agreement. It's a real peeve of mine!

Mine also but, segueing into another pet peeve: newspaper writers who think their sterling prose (why am I reminded of Bullwer-Litton?) starting off a story supersedes Kipling’s serving-men.

“The village of Little Scrap, incorporated in 1898 and home to the famous Hinton Cheese Factory to which hundred of tourists come each year to taste the company’s exalted Brie is a bucolic oasis where church socials and strawberry festivals are attended by families across the district intent on holding dear the age-old ceremonies to which the town richly deserves its motto ‘We care’; so it was a shock when 18 town residents were machine-gunned to death recently.”

MichaelR
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Nope, the comma is necessary. ‘If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white,” I still have two balloons:


If you INSIST....but I think it's a real stretch. The instinctive reading of that sentence is to picture three balloons, and getting only two out of it requires a conscious effort.

It's an unnatural way to word it for conveying "two." What comes naturally--to me, at least, and I don't think I'm terribly atypical (in this regard, anyway!)--is....

'If I have some balloons, a red and a blue and white, I have two balloons.'

But I still like the bag of blue marbles better, being a real marble person and a lover of sapphire blues. You should see my marble collection!


sheila
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"‘If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white,” I still have two balloons: "

If the purpose is to convey the idea of having two balloons, I'd word it,
"I have some balloons: one is red, the other blue and white."

~aj
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If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and white, I have two balloons. If I have a red, a blue, and a white, I have three. Comma placement distinguishes number. If I have categories A, B and C, I have two categories; if A, B, and C, three.

Sorry, I don't agree with that. If you have two balloons, then you have a red and a blue-and-white one.

If you have three, you can have "a red, a blue, and a white" or you can have "a red, a blue and a white."

If you say "I have a red, a blue and white," that simply doesn't communicate at all.

MOI
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Note the bolding. It's not the added comma in your second example that clarifies meaning. It's the article "a" that you also added. Add that "a" in your first sentence and your three balloons are crystal clear, final comma or no.


That'll teach me to read the other posts before posting!

MOI
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Nope, the comma is necessary. ‘If I have some balloons, a red, a blue and a white,” I still have two balloons: one of them a blue and a white. The comma is not superfluous because it divides ‘blue’ and ‘white’ into singulars. While it could be argued the ‘a’ defines singularity, adding the comma nails division.

Well, according to your profile, we only have nine months to resolve this before you get balloons.

:-)
MOI
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If you have two balloons, then you have a red and a blue-and-white one.


YAY for hyphens when they're used appropriately to clarify instead of constantly stuck between words that have no business being tethered to each other!!!


sheila
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But I still like the bag of blue marbles better, being a real marble person and a lover of sapphire blues. You should see my marble collection!

Sheila


I collect turtles. I have a red one, a blue one, a white one one...

MichaelR
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I collect turtles. I have a red one, a blue one, a white one one...


:-)

No commantary (misspelling intended).


sheila
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My balloons are blue, white, and blue and white.

My balloons are blue, white and blue and white.

My balloons are blue and white, blue and white.

My balloons are blue and white, blue, and white.

It seems that if one of the balloons is multicolored (or, more generally, if one of the items in the list contains or plausibly could contain "and"), the comma before the "and" separating the last two balloons is needed.

I would say that to be consistent we should use the comma between each pair of items in a list of more than two items.

(But consistency is not a generally noted feature of the English language.)

Going back to English as a *spoken* language, and using my own speech pattern because it's handy for my use, I find that I put the same pause after the next-to-last item in a list of 3+ that I put after the first. That is, "blue <pause> white <pause> and orange". Consistency would again argue that I treat the two pauses the same in writing. Of course, it also isn't necessarily true that everyone has this same speech pattern.
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