I'm writing a text according to APA standards. The rule regarding serial commas states "Use a comma between elements (including before and and or) in a series of three or more items."

Does this also apply to gerunds, where their object follows after the list?

a) "the sharing, exchanging, distributing, and creating of knowledge"
b) "the sharing, exchanging, distributing and creating of knowledge"

I would instinctively go for option a), but a canonical answer/authoritative source would be great.

  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it asks for a clarification of the recommendations of a particular style guide. (phoog points out that you require a decision about the recommendations of the APA style manual. This is off-topic on ELU.) – Edwin Ashworth May 2 '15 at 13:22

Yes, the serial comma style applies to gerunds

The serial comma rule is a style for presenting items in a list.

It doesn't matter whether those items are nouns, gerund, adjectives, or more complicated terms:

  • I learned to walk, to run, and to twerk.
  • I have seen my best friend skiing, flying, and crashing.
  • I believe in world peace, V-neck sweaters, and my considerable but not entirely insurmountable odds of marrying Kate Upton by this time next year.

This is a matter of what style manual you use. In general, American English requires the use of the serial (Oxford) comma whilst British style manuals stipulate that an Oxford comma only be used in very specific circumstances. This Wikipedia article is a great reference.

  • Did you read the first sentence of the question? – phoog May 2 '15 at 2:16
  • Sorry... I read it a bit fast! – Dog Lover May 2 '15 at 4:41
  • It's the first sentence that's the problem here on ELU. – Edwin Ashworth May 2 '15 at 13:24
  • @EdwinAshworth I don't understand; can you explain? – phoog May 2 '15 at 13:55
  • @phoog From a previous thread (discussed on Meta): 'According to the closing of my question, it seems the Writers Stack Exchange is the proper place for questions about style guides and style usage....' Jun 26 '11 Ricket // Any answer considering the recommendations of one style guide (including how to apply them in trickier situations) is bound to emphasise the opinions of the authors at the expense of opinions almost everyone would concede are equally tenable. – Edwin Ashworth May 2 '15 at 14:00

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