How do you deal with long sentences when it comes to punctuation? Just one small variety in a sentence can completely alter its meaning, even when all the words remain the same. This becomes especially crucial in listing items. Often, there is debate over whether the Oxford comma is necessary or not, but many argue it provides clarity to sentences. Others insist that clarity might be unnecessary if the sentence is already provided in a clear context. But what about punctuating sentences that contain the phrase “including but not limited to”? Especially when many activities are listed?
The sentenced “There are many activities including but not limited to running jumping and swimming” is long and in need of punctuation as it stands to add clarity to the structure. The recommended punctuation for ultimate clarity would therefore be the following: “There are many activities including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.” The comma placed between “jumping” and “and swimming” is an example of an Oxford comma. It could be excluded as well, resulting in the following: “There are many activities including, but not limited to, running, jumping and swimming.” Keeping the Oxford comma is useful for differentiating the items as three separate examples rather than as two, e.g. “running” and “jumping and swimming”, but it is not necessary. Furthermore, in the interest of parallelism, keeping the Oxford comma helps balance the pattern and structure of the sentence. Comma placement can be a tricky thing to learn and use properly.