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When F1 and a Lack of Serial Comma Collide

As someone who spent several years as a copy editor in academic publishing, I know the serial comma isn’t popular among, well, much of Earth’s population — but I thought a particularly good case was made for it this morning when I read this on Twitter:

"The Williams F1 team, Hulkenberg and Maldonado"

Having just woken up at the time — and therefore not having caught up on F1 news — my first thought when I read it was that the Williams 2011 lineup had been finalized, and it was Hülkenberg and Maldonado.  “Oh no!” I thought. “Is Barrichello now going to have no choice but to retire?!”  I was already imagining the hue and cry that would inevitably be raised as a result of this decision made by the big heartless meanies at Williams — but, before I went to read all of the fallout, I wanted to see what the very reasonable James Allen had to say about it all.

Of course, once I went to his blog entry, I realized what his headline actually meant.  Now I’m back to wondering what’s eventually going to happen at Williams, just like everyone else.

This misreading would not have been possible had the title read “The Williams F1 team, Hulkenberg, and Maldonado.”  For a more hilarious example of this particular species of misreading, there’s this (from Wikipedia):

The Times once published an unintentionally humorous description of a Peter Ustinov documentary, noting that “highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector.”

Yet another illustration of why everyone everywhere should jump on board the Serial Comma Clarity Train — destination: Getting Your Damn Point Across.  ;-)


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