Toast and orange juice

Some of you already know what I’m about to say, just from reading that phrase. And you might be surprised to see what I’m about to say on the subject, because it’s not a terribly popular opinion. Still, it’s mine, and I’m airing it. Because I can.

Serial commas.

Love ’em or hate ’em, doesn’t matter. They have a purpose, and that purpose is clarification. However, I’m of the opinion that not everything requires clarification, because people have this thing called common sense. (Perhaps fewer people than in the old days, but it’s still out there. I’ve met some of the folks who have it.) They can read words and use their common sense to understand the writer’s intent, without haring off into areas of … well … idiocy. (There. That’s the unpopular part.)

She had a breakfast that included eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice.

Now seriously, folks–do you honestly believe that she poured the OJ on her toast? Or that she dumped those two things into a blender and drank the results? Seriously? You think that? More to the point, do you honestly think other people think that?

You need help of a kind I cannot provide.

Only the most narrow-minded of pedants would suggest that there’s only one way to parse the list “eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice” and that that way must of necessity result in some vile mixture of the last two items.

Normal folks know better.

There’s a reason, I think, why the serial comma is a style choice. Rarely does it have to be used for clarity. (Do you honestly confuse Kennedy and Stalin with strippers? Did they party with J. Edgar at some point of which I’m unaware?)

This article at Mental Floss, by Arika Okrent, provides several arguments both pro and con that have been used over the years. Go. Read. Be enlightened and entertained. And then use your head, whichever style you choose. Be consistent, but understand why. (As for me and my house, we will continue to use the serial comma because we’re used to it and it doesn’t hurt. We will also continue to not chastise those who feel otherwise.)

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