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Should one use the serial comma in all lists, or only those where each list item is independent?

For example, where each item in the list belongs to the same noun:

'...we looked at the geology, petrology, mineralogy and element geochemistry of the region' or '...we looked at the geology, petrology, mineralogy, and element geochemistry of the region'

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    There is no set standard. You can use it or you can choose not to, in any situation. (I choose the Oxford Comma always) – Hank Sep 26 '17 at 13:20
  • Most but by no means all would drop the last comma. For you, and your department, why might either feel more comfortable? – Robbie Goodwin Sep 27 '17 at 22:39
  • I'm British, so serial commas don't feel comfortable under any circumstances! But I'm editing papers for submission to US journals, so I want to be sure I'm being absolutely correct. – Becca Thomas Sep 29 '17 at 8:55

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