Someone emailed me to tell me that I’m using commas incorrectly. I, may, be. Specifically, this reader wanted to point out my misuse of serial commas. I shouldn’t be using them between the last two items of a series, they said.
Well, Mr. Smarty Pants, I know that rule. I just purposely ignore it.
In case anyone’s not familiar with the serial comma dilemma (and why should you be?), here’s a sentence that uses one:
The serial comma is the comma between the phrase “read it” and the phrase “and deleted it.” In American newspapers, that sentence would look like this:
No serial comma. How come? Because it saves space, and for a newspaper, saved space = saved money. For simple sentences, it works fine. But in others, the omission of serial commas leads to problems of clarity. Let’s say you’re looking for a job and you see this in the classifieds section:
But then you see a very similar ad in the LA Times, only now it looks like this:
I mean, times are tough right now. Sometimes you have to bend your own rules. But are you sure that second job doesn’t include giving customers a sponge bath?
So there you have it, folks. Why I purposely use serial commas. Because I am afraid of touching other naked men. Next week: Why when I spell things wrngo I’m doing that on prupose two.