The two ways to write three things in a list, “A, B and C” and “A, B, and C,” are both correct. The second is an example of an Oxford comma and can help prevent confusion about grouping items in a list. Therefore, use a comma before “and” if in doubt.
Whether you place an Oxford comma before “and,” also known as a serial comma, is not so important.
Therefore, both of these examples are correct:
- Correct: You can choose between contestants A, B and C to partner with you in the final.
- Correct: You can choose between contestants A, B, and C to partner with you in the final.
In the first of the above two examples, some may say that you can choose between a combination of A or B + C. Therefore, to avoid confusion it is best to use a comma before the “and.”
Keep reading the rest of the article to learn more about punctuation with “A, B, and C.” Also, you can see examples of when not putting the Oxford comma can create confusion.
A, B, and C
Using a comma to write “A, B, and C” is correct and is the preferred way to write it if you want to avoid possible confusion.
If you wish, you can omit the serial comma from before “and.” However, it is better to include the comma to be as straightforward as possible.
- For this question, A, B, and C are all incorrect, and D is the correct answer.
- Routes A, B, and C are all viable options.
If you wanted to group B and C together for some reason, you could omit the comma between the options.
However, things start getting confusing when you do this, and people may interpret it differently.
- You can choose either A, B and C, or D.
Therefore, to avoid confusion, it is best to include a comma before the final item in a list and to separate the options clearly.
- You can choose from either A, D, or B and C. (B & C are together)
- You can choose from either A, B, C, or D. (All options are separate)
A, B and C
Excluding the comma between the last two items at the end of a list is correct when it does not create ambiguity.
In the case of “A, B and C,” if you can express with the other words in the sentence that the option is “one,” then it is fine not to have a comma.
- I know the answer is not D, but A, B and C all look correct to me.
However, not having a comma before “and” or another conjunction can create confusion in other situations.
In this sentence, we do not know whether her parents are the two people mentioned at the end:
- She was excited about the concert because she saw her parents, Michael Jackson and Beyonce.
Whereas when we include the Oxford comma, it is clear that she saw both her parents as well as Michael Jackson and Beyonce:
- She was excited about the concert because she saw her parents, Michael Jackson, and Beyonce.