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The Autobiography of Russell
Life from a different perspective
English Grammar Issues

Here are a couple of issues I have with current usages of English grammar.

I don't think punctuation should be in the quote if it's not part of the quoted text. It can become confusing when punctuation is part of the quote yet the sentence doesn't actually end, or you're trying to convey the exact text that was used which doesn't contain punctuation yet does end the sentence.
Example: Did you mean to write "Pass the glue, please." instead of "Pass the glue!"?

I think lists should include the comma between the second to last item and the "and" before the last time. It keeps multiple lists and lists with multiple items as part of each item from becoming confusing. It also makes it possible to systematically parse the list to figure out what words belong together. Currently both versions are accepted ways of writing it.
Example: I gave Bobby Ray a pair of scissors, some candy, and a balloon.

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8 comments or Leave a comment
pdmorehouse From: pdmorehouse Date: September 23rd, 2009 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
The problem I have with the comma between the candy and the and is that essential in that instance the comma is conveying an and. you are essentially writing and twice.
zimzat From: zimzat Date: September 23rd, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
It could be thought of that way. When spoken the commas aren't said as "and" but instead are conveyed by tone changes or pauses in speaking. Written words don't have that distinction so they need punctuation to indicate those changes.

Consider a more complex yet commonly accepted example.

Link is given a sword, boomerrang, bombs and bows and arrows.

In this example the "bows and arrows" is understood to belong together and should not be separated. On the other hand it could be "bombs and bows" that goes together and "arrows" is the last item in the list. Adding the extra comma leaves no question of what set of words go together.
legolastn From: legolastn Date: September 23rd, 2009 06:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
But does anybody actually read lists like that? I don't think they actually do, since til you get to the "and" it could be, say, an "or." Your mind sort of fills it in retrospectively. It might also anticipate based on context but there's no certainty til you get to the conjunction. I read a comma as a pause and/or demarcation.

< / nerd >
raist_ From: raist_ Date: September 23rd, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I read lists like that. As do most people I know.
legolastn From: legolastn Date: September 23rd, 2009 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I used to follow the "punctuation in the quote" rule but now I usually don't unless its formal writing - for the reason you mention.

I use the comma in the list all the time and it drives me crazy when people don't.
scixual From: scixual Date: September 23rd, 2009 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I believe that in both of these issues formal British English agrees with you.
raist_ From: raist_ Date: September 23rd, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
The latter is correct, at least how I learned grammar.

As for the former, I remember there being different rules that apply when you use a period, versus using anything else.
im_confused From: im_confused Date: September 24th, 2009 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I had a coworker who I used to argue with all the time about serial commas... she would always leave them out of her documentation, I would always put them in mine. Whenever we proofread each other's work we always corrected it to the way we preferred. LOL.

I was actually always taught to use the serial comma in lists, but I know there are a lot of style guides out there now that oppose it.
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