Serial comma

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The serial comma is a grammatical construct used immediately prior to a conjunction (typically 'and' or 'or'). Put simply, in a (inline) list of items, the item preceding the 'and' (or 'or') is followed by a comma (the serial comma). The serial comma is well known because common convention used to be that a comma was not used in this position, but most modern styles (especially for technical communications) advocate its use.

A style guide will typically say whether the serial comma should be used. If in doubt, use it.

Examples:

Without the serial comma With the serial comma
Microsoft Office Standard Edition includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Microsoft Office Standard Edition includes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Note that the serial comma is never used if the list contains only two items - so "bangers and mash" is used, and not "bangers, and mash".

See also:

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