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Punctuation Man breaks
with Associated Press,
endorses serial comma

In support of the National Education Association’s “Read Across America” program on March 3, the nation’s leading authority on helping school children, teachers, and parents learn proper punctuation skills declares that the serial comma should be taught, used, and accepted universally.

Pinole, CA, February 28, 2008 — Punctuation Man, a leading authority on punctuation and teaching punctuation to elementary school children, today announced his decision to fully support the use of the serial comma.

Use the serial commaShunned by the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the serial comma is still widely accepted by educators, grammarians, and literary circles, including Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, and the Chicago Manual of Style. The announcement coincides with the National Education Association’s (NEA) “Read Across America” child literacy program, to be held nationwide on Monday, March 3.

There is no small debate about the serial comma (also known as the Oxford Comma). It is a comma used before a coordinating conjunction (such as “and”) before the last item in a series of three or more. For example: The flag is red, white, and blue.

Enter Jeff Rubin — aka Punctuation Man — a former newspaper reporter turned newsletter publisher, public speaker, and founder of National Punctuation Day, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary on September 24. Jeff and his wife, Norma, travel the nation to teach children the basics of punctuation with Punctuation Playtime, a live assembly program that is also offered to teachers, schools, and school districts as an instructional DVD.

“I am inundated with questions from people across the United States about punctuation, and many involve the serial comma,” says Rubin. “Speaking as Punctuation Man, I hope to resolve one of punctuation’s nagging issues and provide clarity. I recommend the use of the serial comma because it helps make clear the meaning of a sentence.”

For example, according to AP style, how many horses in the following sentence were in the race — three or four?

“The horses thundered toward the finish: black and gold, red and white, blue and teal and yellow.”

When punctuated using a serial comma, the meaning is clear. Four horses raced neck and neck: black and gold, red and white, blue and teal, and yellow.

Here’s another example from a book dedication: “To my parents, Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.”

“Punctuation counts,” says Rubin. “A misplaced comma can alter the meaning of a sentence.

“Style should never get in the way of clear communication. The proper use of the serial comma should be taught, used, and accepted universally.”

While performing Punctuation Playtime, based in Pinole, CA, Jeff Rubin and Norma Martinez-Rubin have energized thousands of children on a subject routinely regarded as boring and duller than dirt. Jeff, a veteran newspaper reporter and newsletter publisher, founded National Punctuation Day (September 24) in 2004 to draw attention to the importance of proper punctuation. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and speaks frequently on writing, marketing, and integrity for small-business owners.

If you find a list of three or more items in a sentence
NOT separated by a serial comma on this web site, send me an e-mail.
You've won a free National Punctuation Day® T-shirt! (Errors in newspaper articles or posters don’t count.)

Contact Jeff Rubin for more information about punctuation
(510) 724-9507