- My duties include answering phone calls, responding to emails, filing, and supervising employees.
The final comma before “and” separates the last two duties – filing and supervising. Without that comma, the reader might think that my responsibilities include “filing and supervising employees,” leaving the reader to ponder how someone files employees.
On the other hand, there are those who argue that the use of (or the lack of) the serial comma is of little to no consequence because the items in the series are words equal in weight and value, and they are separated by “and” or “or.”
The basic reasoning for or against using the Oxford comma breaks down as such:
Reasons for using it:
- it clarifies ambiguity
- it matches spoken cadence
Reasons against using it:
- it is redundant
To use or not to use: that is the question. In arriving at your decision a practical tip is to not assume that your audience will automatically think what you’re thinking and to err on the side of caution, utilizing the serial comma to clarify your meaning. However, it is also important to take your organization into account. In your office you may notice a prevailing trend to use (or not to use) this controversial comma in your fellows’ writings. If you notice a trend in your office, then go with that!