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Friday Grammar & Style Detour: The Serial Comma

Serial My mission is to watch legal blogs. The Volokh Conspiracy is the number 2 legal blog in all of internetdom, according to the Avvo legal blog rankings. Thus, the following:

This morning at Volokh, David Post laments the apparent demise of the serial comma in The New York Times. I weep with him. Here at LBW, we generally follow AP Style, which is anti-serial comma. (I am not sure what Fake AP Stylebook has to say on the matter, but I'm sure it's hilarious.) But I am a staunch grammar/style pragmatist. I believe that anything that makes the writer's meaning clearer is a plus. I am not afraid of the passive voice. As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing wrong with writing as you would speak (assuming you speak something that resembles the Queen's English).

So why hate on the serial comma? It's an issue that should be as significant for lawyers as it is for journalists. As one commenter on the Volokh post points out, a serial comma most certainly can add clarity in the context of drafting a contract. Legal writing guru Wayne Schiess is a proponent. Though certain serial comma supporters do more harm than good, in my opinion, by using atrocious examples to demonstrate its effectiveness, I am not ready to give up the fight.

Who's got an opinion?

Posted by Eric Lipman on July 16, 2010 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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