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More APA Style Guidelines: Serial Commas

Serial Commas

A serial comma means that a comma will separate each element in a series of three or more, even before the coordinating conjunctions "and" and before "or." The following are simple examples that use serial commas:

  • qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method studies
  • committee chair, second committee member, and university research reviewer
  • Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5
  • assumptions, limitations, and delimitations

Here is an example of a serial comma used within a sentence:

There has never before been such widespread focus in the educational community on early childhood teacher quality, standards, and accountability (Scott-Little et al., 2007).

Note that serial commas should also be used to separate authors’ names in reference list entries.

Bir, C., Croney, C. C., & Olynk Widmar, N. J. (2019). US residents' perceptions of dog welfare needs and canine welfare information sources. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 22(1), 42-68. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888705.2018.1476862

In addition, per APA 7, Sections 6.4 and 6.49, if any item in a list of three or more items already contains commas, use semicolons instead of commas between the items. This helps to avoid confusion between serialized items. For example,

In this section, I present the operational definitions; the assumptions, limitations, and delimitations; and the significance of the study.

See also our page on Lists for more information on numbered and bulleted lists.