The Elusive Comma (Part 7)

For six sessions we have talked about places where we should use the comma. Now let’s talk about places where the comma may be omitted. A good rule of thumb is to let your ear be the guide. Read your sentences aloud. You will naturally pause in those places that need a comma.

In a series whose elements are all joined by conjunctions, no commas are needed unless the elements are long and pauses are helpful.

Example: Is it by Beethoven or Brahms or Bach? Of course it would not be wrong to say:
Is it by Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach?

When elements in a series involve internal punctuation, or when they are very long and complex, they should be separated by semicolons.

Example: The brown, fuzzy-wuzzy bear; the black and white panda bear; and the snowy-white, fat polar bear were all friends.

When an ampersand is used instead of the word “and,” as in company names, the serial comma is omitted.

Example: Dooey, Soakum & Howe

These examples end our seven sessions on commas.