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A serial comma is the comma you use before the last item in a series of three or more things.

With the serial comma:

I went to the store to buy oatmeal, milk, and cookies.

Without the serial comma:

I went to the store to buy oatmeal, milk and cookies.

There are arguments to be made for and against it.

Why do I bring this up?

There’s an article by Jay Lindsay of the Associated Press called “Evangelists target spiritually cold New England” making the rounds. There’s nothing overly special about the piece — the headline summarizes it well enough.

But reader Jon brings it to my attention because of the comma issue.

Here’s a direct quotation from the piece. The lack of a serial comma gives it an entirely different (and very entertaining) meaning:

They say a reason for the region’s hollowed-out faith is a pervasive theology that departs from traditional Biblical interpretation on issues such as the divinity of Jesus, the exclusivity of Christianity as a path to salvation and homosexuality.

Jon points out:

I’m pretty sure there are other paths to homosexuality besides Christianity.

Nice catch 🙂