Q. In response to a question about the use of serial commas, you responded in favor of the extraneous comma with the example “With gratitude to my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope”—which you claimed created confusion. But doesn’t the same confusion arise in some cases if the serial comma is added: “With gratitude to my mom, Mother Teresa, and the pope”? Why wouldn’t you recommend rewriting the sentence in either case to avoid the ambiguity: “With gratitude to Mother Teresa, the pope and my parents”?
A. Excellent point! Although CMOS recommends the serial comma as default punctuation, writers and editors still have to think before deploying it. (Of course, we would rewrite it “With gratitude to Mother Teresa, the pope, and my parents.”)