Grammar Tip – Commas with “And”

Annabelle’s question: “I want to know if I am placing my commas correctly when I list several items or people. For example: Jim, David, and I denotes 3 different people. But Jim, David and I could imply David and I are a couple. I always tend to put commas before ‘and.’ However, several of my colleagues disagree.”

BizWritingTip response: Years ago, there was a rule about never putting a comma before “and” in a series within a sentence. But current grammar books don’t agree.

For example, The Gregg Reference Manual states: “When three or more items are listed in a series and the last item is preceded by and, or, or nor, place a comma before the conjunction as well as between the other items.”

Examples (correct)
There are many rules for apostrophes, commas, and semicolons.
She is professional, educated, and skilled at customer service.
Let’s organize a meeting for our indoor and outdoor staff, customers, and service providers.

You’ll also find the same rule in the APA Publication Manual. However, the CP StyleBook says to only add the comma when there is a possibility of confusion. For example, the American flag is red, white and blue. There is no need for a comma as this is common knowledge. Following the CP StyleBook rule involves more thinking on your part.

Now back to the original question, you could go either way. However, I prefer Jim, David, and I to emphasize three individuals. If you do not place a comma before the “and,” it may imply more of a group.

If you want to be reminded of the rule, personalize your computer. Then, whenever you miss the comma, you will see a green squiggle. You can then decide what to do about it.

To personalize your computer …

If you are using a version of Microsoft Office pre 2007 …
Click on Tools → Options → Spelling and Grammar → Settings
You will then see Comma required before last list item. Use the pull-down box to set “always.”

If you are using a version of Microsoft Office 2007 …
Click on Microsoft Icon (at top) → Word Options → Proofing → Settings
You will then see Comma required before last list item. Use the pull-down box to set “always.”

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