…Well it really kinda depends.
I recently had a mostly useless conversation with my sister about the comma before the “and” in a series (red, white and blue – should there be a comma after white?!). I was adamant that this comma should never be used. As a journalism student, we were taught to be as concise as possible, eliminate as much ink from the page as you can. My sister (to my shock) said that it is one of her pet peeves when the comma is missing. See she’s a law student and apparently academic writing is very formal, and therefore much less concise than I’m used to.
This sounds incredibly lame, but I have a personal history with this comma specifically. Growing up, I had always learned that the comma should be there. Then in many college writing classes, they began to say that the comma was optional, either way it is grammatically correct. In one of my reporting classes we had this same conversation. It was a small class and we all knew each other so it wasn’t weird. My professor said he noticed that a lot of us were including this comma when it shouldn’t be there according to AP (Associated Press) Style. I said, “But that’s my favorite comma.” I was mostly joking, but you know you’re one of those weirdos that likes grammar when you have a favorite comma… my god, I digress. After that I trained myself never to use this particular comma. I figured if it’s optional and I’m not supposed to use it in my journalism classes then I don’t need it in other writing classes either, so I better just never use it anymore. Until a couple days ago.
So after talking about this my sister and I came to a mutual understanding. She’ll stop being frustrated when that comma is missing from newspaper articles, and I’ll stop removing that comma from appraisal reports I edit at work before they get sent to clients (oops).
It turns out… that conversation wasn’t so useless after all.