Lists and the Oxford Comma

Lists and the Oxford Comma

A Lesson by CK_85

This discussion will be done on utilizing commas in lists, as well as the Oxford comma in general.


One of the primary uses of the comma that we all know is the list. We can state a series of objects in a row, and separate each item with a comma. When you have three objects or more in a row that you want to be held in their own regard, you must separate them with a comma. For example:

Go to the store and get eggs, milk, butter, and apple juice.

It is really no more difficult than that. However, it is important to note that between the second to last item and the last item, there must be a conjunction (and, or, but, nor, etc.). The only exception to this is when a list isn't terminated. For example, when I gave a small list of examples of conjunctions, I didn't put a conjunction between "nor" and "etc." This is because the etc. continues the list into a metaphorical infinitum.

Remember how I mentioned that commas are used in lists when there are three or more items? While you still need a conjunction between the last and second to last item, you do not need a comma if the list has only two items. For example:

Go to the store and get eggs and milk.

The last point to make is in regards to the Oxford comma (or the serial comma). This is simply the comma before the conjunction in a list that has three or more items. Using it is up to personal preference. Though, whether you decide to use it or not, you must be consistent with the style that you chose. It is commonly used in the United States, though it is not commonly used in the UK nor Australia. The main advantage of the Oxford Comma is to remove any and all ambiguity from a sentence. For example:

The man was positioned next to his boss, his spouse and a stranger.


The man was positioned next to his boss, his spouse, and a stranger.

The former expresses some serious marital problems as well as a dismissal of the corporate hierarchy, while the latter expresses what might just be an awkward elevator ride. Whichever you decide to do is up to you. I hope this helped, refreshed, or taught you something new!

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Added on February 19, 2017
Last Updated on February 19, 2017

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Buffalo, NY

I write stories, unorthodox snippets of prose, as well as hip-hop lyrics.