Serial commas can cause confusion, too

“It was a typical Friday night at Costco in Corona. Customers, including an off-duty Los Angeles police officer, 32-year-old Kenneth French and his parents, waited in line for food samples.”

How many people are mentioned in this excerpt from a real Instagram post about a Los Angeles Times story? And, more interesting, could commas help answer that question?

Don’t ask a serial comma fan. You won’t get an unbiased answer. Instead, you’ll hear, “There should absolutely be a serial comma after the name Kenneth French. That’s why serial commas are great. They eliminate confusion.”

But I, a serial comma agnostic, see it a little differently. In some cases, serial commas eliminate confusion. In other cases, they cause it. I explain in this recent column.

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