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Is the last comma in a list still optional when the listed items are actions rather than items? Omitting it looks odd to my eye in this situation, but I don't use Oxford commas and want to be consistent, so...

Does it need to be:

He opened the door, walked in, and took a seat.

Or can it be:

He opened the door, walked in and took a seat.

  • If you want what you write to sound like what you mean, don't omit final commas. The best rule is to put them where you hear them, but that's only available to native speakers and those who can ask them. – John Lawler May 28 '18 at 14:57
  • I'm a native speaker, but for the above example I could honestly go either way: with or without the last pause. On the other hand, if it said "then" instead of "and", I'd definitely pause and use a comma. Not sure if that's right either though. – Tibbie May 28 '18 at 16:03
  • What the native speaker says is right, ipso facto. What they write is not part of the language; it's just the storage mechanism, and may or may not be capable of storing what the speaker said. – John Lawler May 28 '18 at 17:05
  • Just because you have a "rule" to not use serial commas, you still can (and should) use them when leaving them out doesn't convey what you want. (Conversely, people who do use serial commas should not do so when their use causes confusion—as can also be the case.) Consistency is important—but not at the price of comprehension. – Jason Bassford May 28 '18 at 18:28
  • Yes, I agree, and that's the rule I follow: no serial comma (my personal preference) unless omitting it would confuse things. But for the posted example, I'm specifically wanting to know if the comma is compulsory when the list has actions. I feel like it should be (perhaps because of the 'then' thing) but I'm not sure. – Tibbie May 29 '18 at 3:27

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