The most common punctuation mistakes we see authors make usually involve proper comma usage. Not all authors are grammar pros, and that's fine! That's why editors exist, after all. But if grammar isn't your strong suit and you'd like to change that, today's tip is for you.
Lists don't require commas unless there are three or more items.
For example, the following would be incorrect:
"You have my sword, and my ax." Since there are only two items, no comma is needed.
But if the list has three or more items, then you need a comma after the first item. If you're team Oxford comma for clarity, then you need a comma after all items except the last one. We won't get into the Oxford comma debate here, but I'm personally a fan, so I'll use it in my example.
"You have my sword, my ax, and my bow."
As a bonus editing tip, a lot of comma usage is about rhythm. When you read the list in the example above, it feels a little bouncy, with a break between each item. That's the comma, making itself felt. So if it feels like there ought to be a pause in the sentence, chances are you need a comma.
Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!