Force answers force, war breeds war, and death only brings death.

  • Welcome to ELU, lookup for "Oxford comma" in Google or any grammar book to get your answer. – P. O. May 30 '15 at 14:59
  • 3
    This is not strictly an Oxford comma issue. This comma isn't just stylistic. It serves to separate "war" and "death" so that the reader isn't led to think "war breeds war and death" (even though it does). – Steven Littman May 30 '15 at 15:40
  • possible duplicate of Should I put a comma before the last item in a list? – Mari-Lou A Jun 6 '15 at 11:24

It is not compulsory to put the comma there.

If you say "Force answers force, war breeds war and death only brings death."
I think it creates a sort of confusion for the reader. So it is best to put the Comma.

When a comma appears before "and" or "or" in a series, it is known as the Oxford comma. It is considered unnecessary by some. However, omission of the Oxford comma can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.
Consider the following example:

1) We had coffee, cheese and crackers and grapes.

Adding a comma after crackers makes it clear that "cheese and crackers and grapes" represents one dish. In cases like this, clarity demands the Oxford comma.
To avoid the confusion, we add a comma to it.

2) We had coffee, cheese and crackers, and grapes.

  • 2
    You said, "Adding a comma after crackers makes it clear that "cheese and crackers and grapes" represents one dish." Actually, adding a comma there separates "cheese and crackers" from "grapes." – Steven Littman May 30 '15 at 15:37

Reread the sentence and hunt for ambiguity. If the sentence is ambiguous you can alter the writing and eliminate the need for choosing the vexing"Oxford comma".

"I'm going to visit my parents, Adam and Eve." This is possibly equivocal. Are you visiting three parties or are 'Adam and Eve' in apposition to 'parents'?

"I'm going to visit my parents, Adam, and Eve." This possesses more clarity if you're visiting three parties. But if 'Adam and Eve' denotes your parents, or if 'Adam and Eve' denotes one party, then the Oxford comma hasn't helped.

So, resolve the issue by rewriting.

"I'm going to visit my parents, as well as Adam and Eve." Two parties.

"I'm going to visit my parents, Adam and Eve, later this month." One party.

"I'm going to visit my parents. On the same trip I'll see Adam, and then I'll visit Eve on the last day." Three parties.

The rewritten sentences use more words, but the extra terms add clarity.

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