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I know that the AP style tells us that it's correct if we don't put a comma before the "and"—or any conjunction—in a simple series, but I just don't get why.

I mean doesn't it change the meaning of the sentence if we don't put a comma before the "and"? Say for example: The teacher teaches Mathematics, English, History, Science and Technology.

If that is the construction and the public doesn't know the rule of AP when it comes to this scenario, they might think that "Science" and "Technology" will be one, like it will be just "Science and Technology", where the author really meant that they are two separate entities.

So... Why don't we put a comma before the conjunction in a simple series?

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    This is the Oxford comma, which you may or may not choose to use. Commented Apr 27 at 7:43
  • Robert Graves in The Reader Over Your Shoulder argues for the comma with the example of dividing an estate among heirs, the two parties connected by "and" being treated as a unit, not separately, as a result of the missing comma.
    – TimR
    Commented Apr 27 at 11:45

1 Answer 1

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It is not necessarily a simple series due to Science and Technology maybe going together. The teacher teaches Mathematics, English, History, Science and Technology. [ambiguous, maybe]

The teacher teaches Mathematics, English, History, Science, and Technology. [two separate subjects]

The Oxford comma will solve the problem. However, the first can also be written like this:

The teacher teaches Mathematics, English, History and Science and Technology.

The last one without the Oxford comma.

Or even this:

The teacher teaches Mathematics, English, History and Science & Technology.

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  • What I meant to say was the subjects "Science" and "Technology" are two separate things. And based on the AP style, there should be no comma before "and". You are, however, correct to say in your first statement that it is not necessarily a simple series—that is, if the "Science" and "Technology" were just one thing, and if that were the case it would be a complex series. But my point is, why does the AP style prohibit the use of a comma before any conjunction, say for example, "and"? Commented Apr 29 at 8:43
  • @KingofSpades The reason for the AP's thing is that as a news organization, they don't like the use of the Oxford comma. Just like Reuters: Use commas to separate items in a list, e.g. cheese, fruit, wine and coffee or Smith despised ballet, hated the theatre and was bored by opera. Note that there is normally no comma before the final and. However, a comma should be used in this position if to leave it out would risk ambiguity, e.g. He admired Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Leonard Bernstein. [You have to regoogle that PDF Sorry, no link]
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 29 at 13:58
  • Ahh... Now I get it... :) Thank you @Lambia... Commented Apr 30 at 9:35

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