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I have trouble telling when I’m overusing commas. My question is if the comma between undertake and whether is needed:

I am passionate about the quality of work I undertake, whether it be school work, or cooking food in the kitchen.

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The first comma is fine, the second comma is wrong. The easy test is to say the out loud. You almost have to pause between "undertake" and "whether", but you cannot pause between "work" and "or". –  David Schwartz Nov 24 '12 at 18:43
    
ok, thanks for your help –  JaPerk14 Nov 24 '12 at 18:44
    
There is a far more interesting question here about commas between alternatives in a list than the original one about a comma in a specific and localised sentence. Although it would have helped that if comments had not been deleted. –  Andrew Leach Nov 24 '12 at 18:49
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1 Answer

I concur with Nathaniel about the comma rules. However, there is an ambiguity in the sentence not yet addressed.

Consider this fragment:

...I undertake, whether it be school, work, or cooking ...

versus:

...I undertake, whether it be schoolwork or cooking...

This becomes less of a question about the use of the Oxford comma, and more about whether the writer meant to use the word schoolwork or was intending school and work to be thought of as two separate items in the list.

Additionally, while it is not grammatically incorrect to say "cooking food in the kitchen". It is, however, awkward. English, like most languages, has some built-in assumptions. Most native English speakers would not say "I enjoy cooking food in the kitchen."

If one says "I enjoy cooking", we would fill in the blanks and assume that you meant food, and that you do it in the kitchen.

We would feel free to fill out these details if there was something about it that was special. It's certainly worth going out of your way to say "I enjoy cooking wild game over an open fire."

Not trying to be difficult, just trying to advise on some of the things that English learners or young people might get hung up on.

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