Serial comma

…red, white, and blue…

OR

…red, white and blue…

OK, let’s get this bad boy out of the way. People tend to have fairly strong feelings on the serial comma. Now there is little point in debating whether or not it is necessary or superfluous. Every forum I’ve seen on the topic ends in stalemate.

The topic I’d like to explore with you is the way in which we decide to include the comma or exclude it when translating.

I’ll share my process with you.

For me it’s a matter of preserving style. If I’m translating, say, an article, then I leave the serial comma out. My reason is simple: journalistic pieces in American English follow AP style, which does not employ the serial comma. Same goes for most material used for marketing–produced by people that are very concerned with saving space, hence their disdain for the serial comma that translates into printing one more character.

My personal preference, though, is to use the serial comma. So, for pieces that are clearly not for journalism, marketing, PR, or other industry with space issues, I use the serial comma in my English translation.

How do you decide?

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rebecca says:

    I just told my students that if you want to be very correct and perhaps a little old-fashioned like me, you’ll use that last comma. When I was in school, we were taught that leaving out the final comma was “journalistic,” but I’d never considered the concern for space.

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  2. You know, I’ve noticed a lot of bloggers (at least most of the ones I read) are serial comma users. I wonder if online media has specific tendencies toward using the serial comma. Not so old fashioned any more!

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