Why is there a comma before the “and”?
It’s called a serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Henry’s comma after Henry Fowler). It goes before the final conjunction (“and” or “or”) in a series. It is always correct to use it, but it’s not always necessary. Schools teach to always omit the serial comma, but that’s definitely wrong: there are times when you must use it. Consider these examples:
The colours available are black, white, yellow, and red.
In this case, you could omit the serial comma, but you don’t have to.
Adequate resources are available for policy development, drafting the consequential procedures, and consultations with the minister’s office and other stakeholders.
The serial comma is needed because the items in the series are phrases—prevents reading through into the final phrase. That is, without the comma, the reader might read the second phrase as ‘…drafting the consequential procedures and consultations…’
Provision has been made for site rehabilitation, occupational health and safety, and any continuing costs.
The serial comma is needed because the second phrase contains the conjunction “and”.
My recommendation is to always use the serial comma. It’s a good habit to develop for the times when you really do need it.
October 26, 2015 / Tim McAuley / 0