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Hi People,

Usually (and maybe always) authors use a comma before the 'and'.

For instance:

The apple, orange, and melon are good for us.

I dont really understand why a comma is needed before the 'and'. 'And' is itself a conjucting orange and melon and I dont see the reason to use a comma before the 'and'.

Could you explain this?

Thank you in advance!
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Comments  
No comma is required after the penultimate item of a list, unless the complexity of the sentence demands it in order to maintain clarity. Therefore that comma in your sentence is stylistically wrong-- it should read apple, orange and melon.
Adding a comma before the last item in a series is purely a style decision. The Chicago Style Manual prefers a comma, and fiction writing usually contains a comma; other style guides (such as those followed by newspapers) leave out the comma. It doesn't matter whether you add it or not, just as long as you're consistent throughout your document.
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Interestingly, the Oxford University Press still inserts a comma before the 'and' in such a list, e.g.

1. The apple, orange, and melon are good for us.

The second comma is therefore known as the 'Oxford' comma. It used to be the norm, but isn't much used in current BrE. The people who devise secretarial courses are particularly averse to it.

My own (wildly speculative) theory is that whereas the comma was once regarded as a guide to intonation and pause-length, it is now mostly seen as a semantic marker. In the example above, for instance, the pause after 'apple' is more or less the same as the pause after 'orange'; nonetheless, the second comma would be omitted by most people, on the grounds that 'and' already does the comma's job. (More's the pity, to my mind.)

Here endeth the wildly speculative theory.

MrP
Hardly wild, MrP. One I think I shall promulgate, in fact, thank you. You prefer the Oxford comma, though, do you? To me it looks cluttered. Prim upbringing, I suppose.
I'm sorry to say I conform to the norm, in ordinary business correspondence, letters of complaint to the local authority, poison pen letters, etc.

Elsewhere, I let the commas run free...
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i apologise for using this old thread for my question as i think it's not necessary to start a new one.

the question: john is a tad faster, working hard and his writing has improved.

adding a comma before the and is unnecessary, right?
in the above case, adding a comma before the and is unnecessary because there isn't an independent clause before it and, also, the same subject (john) is being described and talked about, right?
Not as straightforward as it may seem.

John is a tad faster, working hard, and his writing has improved.

If this is to be correctly structured, we must recognize that working hard is a nonfinite clause as an adverbial modifying the main clause John is a tad faster. The whole independent clause (John...hard) then should be separated from the next independent clause (his writing has improved) by a comma and the conjunction and.

It is also possible that working hard is an appositive to the main clause-- or even an explanatory interjection-- but in both cases it should be separated by commas from the rest of the sentence, which remains composed of two independent clauses: John is a tad faster, and his writing has improved.
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