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I have a sentence in which the meaning seems to be unclear both with and without a comma. Moreover, I'm unsure whether having a comma is correct at all. The cause is the 'and' in the first point:

  • These guidelines detail how we use cookies and similar technologies, and the options you have concerning them.

With the comma present, the second 'and' can be read as conjunction and therefore lead the reader to believe it is the beginning of an independent clause, which is what happened when I first read it.

Without the comma, I don't think it is particularly clear either.

Is the comma wrong here?

I would greatly appreciate some help.

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    Having looked at the sentence again, I have found a workaround, but I am still curious about the correctness (or incorrectness) of the comma. Here's my workaround: "These guidelines detail how we use cookies and similar technologies and what options you have concerning them."
    – Dan Norman
    Oct 12 '20 at 8:52
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Your sentence is about two things detailed in the guidelines cited:

1 - how cookies and similar technologies are used

2 - the options readers have concerning them

Because the first item has an 'and' in it, the writer chose to use a comma before the 'and' that joins the two items for clarity.

This is common in such instances, and is known as the 'Oxford Comma':

there is no comma between the penultimate item in a list and ‘and’/‘or’, unless required to prevent ambiguity – this is sometimes referred to as the ‘Oxford comma’. However, always insert a comma in this position if it would help prevent confusion.

He took French, Spanish, and Maths A-levels. (No)

I ate fish and chips, bread and jam, and ice cream. (Yes)

We studied George III, William and Mary, and Henry VIII. (Yes)

She left her money to her parents, Mother Theresa and the pope. (No)

Source: https://www.ox.ac.uk/public-affairs/style-guide p 13

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  • Thank you very much for the answer. I did not realise that the Oxford comma can also be used in a 'list' comprising just two items to avoid confusion.
    – Dan Norman
    Oct 12 '20 at 9:46

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