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ACT and the Serial Comma

Posted on 11th May 2011 in Tampa ACT Preparation

I was helping one of my students prepare for the ACT today. We considered a sentence like this one.

The boys were going to the beach, park, and marina.

Some style books do not require the second comma.

The Associated Press Style Guide advises writers not to include the comma before the conjunction in a series of three or more.

If the McGraw Hill practice tests reflect the real ACT, the makers of the ACT want test takers to use the serial comma to separate the items on a list.

In other words, they regard “The boys went to the beach, park, and marina.” as correct. They regard leaving off the second comma as an error.

People who care about punctuation disagree about the need for the second comma in a series of three. I think that it’s better to include it.

Users of the MLA Style Manual and The Chicago Manual of Style generally include the second comma in a series of three. Users of the Associated Press Style Guide do not.

No matter who you think is right, know the makers of the ACT consider the second comma in a series of three essential.

colorful gothic script on yellowed page

This image created by Liz West and licensed under CC by 2.0. See more of her photos at


Eric Anderson is a SAT and ACT tutor in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

He can help your son or daughter score higher on the reading and writing portions of both standardized admission tests.

Call 813.787.8959 to reach Eric.

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