JS Tip 310: The Harvard Comma

Tips from Jefferson Smith Training and Consulting

** From the Writing Workshops: The Harvard Comma

Steven Borgna of Nevada State Bank suggested we explore commas.

We’ll do this in a series. Each week, for the next few weeks, we’re review a different principle about commas.

No other punctuation mark is as misunderstood as the lowly comma.

Principle One: Place a comma after each element and before the connecting word in a series of three or more elements:

The best of the Three Stooges were Larry, Moe, and Curly.

Notice the comma after “Moe” and before the “and.” It has a name.

It’s called “The Harvard Comma.” It’s also called “The Oxford Comma.”

That’s because the Harvard University Press and the University of Oxford Press say “Use it.”

It will never hurt you. It may help you. It’s necessary to avoid confusion: The home included four bedrooms, a two-car garage, a kitchen with a laundry, and a lake

not

The home included four bedrooms, a two-car garage, a kitchen with a laundry and a lake.

Whoops. Where’s the lake? In the kitchen?

The comma before the connecting word may keep you from looking silly.

As always, we love this stuff.

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