Welcome to Ask the Editor. I'm Emily Brewster, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster.
歡迎來到〈問問編輯〉。我是 Emily Brewster，韋氏字典的副主編。
We all know that commas separate items in a list. "I love nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs." But that last comma is shrouded in controversy—is it necessary?
There are several names for the comma that separates the second to last item in a list from a final item that is introduced by "and" or "or." It's most commonly called the serial comma. It's also called the Harvard comma and the Oxford comma because it is used by the publishers associated with those universities.
The serial comma is optional. Publishers typically take a stand on whether or not to use it, and writers tend to feel strongly one way or the other. It is up to you. But be aware that not using the serial comma can result in some ambiguity. There is the likely factitious example of a book dedication: "I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God," where without the comma it sounds like Ayn Rand and God are the ones who begot the author. And then there is the real example from text about a documentary on the late Merle Haggard. "Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall."
連續逗號是非強制性的。出版社通常都會對於該不該用採取堅定的立場，而寫作者也會堅定地覺得該寫或不寫。這其實看你自己。但要注意，不採用連續逗號有可能會導致語意不清。這是有可能會出現在書中的假想致謝詞：「我想要感謝我的爸媽，Ayn Rand 和上帝。」，沒有連續逗號的話，聽起來會像 Ayn Rand 和上帝是作者的父母。接下來是真實的例子，這是已故歌手 Merle Haggard 紀錄片中的一段話。「接受訪問的包含他的兩位前妻，Kris Kristofferson 和 Robert Duvall。」
In many cases, though, no ambiguity arises. "The house has a big yard, small kitchen and few windows." "The recipe calls for sugar, butter, cream, salt and vanilla."
Like the serial comma? Use it. Or not. Newspapers have traditionally done without it as a way to save space. Dictionaries have also traditionally been concerned with space, but, we, at Merriam-Webster, use the serial comma. No one calls it the Merriam-Webster comma, but if people started to, we wouldn't object.
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