Also, in an earlier RwV post, someone called Stephenie Meyer's persistent comma abuse the "Oxford" or "serial" comma. Spoiler: This is incorrect. You're shocked, I know.
Grammar quick tip: The Oxford
comma is the final comma in list of three or more items. (This "list" aspect might make "serial" a more memorable name!) It's the optional comma that comes before the and
.Bella, Edward, and Jacob went to the amusement park.
The Oxford comma is the comma after Edward. The sentence could also be written as:Bella, Edward and Jacob went to the amusement park.
I like the Oxford comma because it allows for distinctions like this:Bella went to the amusement park with her friends, Edward, and Jacob.
In that sentence, Bella's friends are not Edward and Jacob, but possibly some of the filler characters from the book: Jessica, for example. Alice might also be coming along in this example. Without the Oxford comma, you lose that distinction:Bella went to the amusement park with her friends, Edward and Jacob.
It's no longer clear who went to the amusement park. Maybe Edward and Jacob are Bella's friends and the comma is an appositive. (An appositives is additional information about the most recent noun, enclosed in commas: Edward, the extremely old vampire, is Bella's boyfriend.
) Only consistent use of the Oxford comma allows for clarity in this sentence.
Meanwhile, this is a typical Stephenie Meyer comma abuse pileup:Bella brushed her hair, and ate a sandwich before going to the amusement park.
That's not an intentional comma: that comma is reflexive. Stephenie Meyer knew the word "and" was coming next and put in a comma just to be safe. But commas only come before the word and
in a list of three things or between two independent clauses. This works:Bella brushed her hair, and she ate a sandwich.
Because Bella brushed her hair
and She ate a sandwich
are both full sentences all on their own.
This doesn't:Bella brushed her hair, and ate a sandwich.
Because Ate a sandwich
is not a full sentence.
If Stephenie Meyer were a better writer, something like this would be acceptable:Bella brushed her hair, and walked out the door.
Why? Because those are two very separate actions and the comma gives you a tiny pause between them, creating the illusion of time passing. There's an almost tactile sensation in the sentence if you read it out loud: it sounds as if going out the door is a very final
, almost climactic thing.
But Stephenie Meyer is not a better writer. She should really, really stick to the basic forms before she tries to do things for effect. You need to know the rules to know when and how to break them, and Stephenie Meyer's usage of this comma almost never
reads as intentional. She's just using that comma because she has never fully understood the distinction between independent and dependent clauses.
is a great refresher on all aspects of grammar, and you should check it out even if you don't care about Twilight one way or the other.