Usage and Grammar

Q. I am continually encountering extremely long lists ending with “as well as X” in this construction: “I talked about A, B, C, D, E, and F as well as X.” In 95 percent of these cases, X is not comparative, contrastive, or emphatic but merely a last-minute tack-on to the list. (Otherwise, I would probably use a dash or comma.) Given these circumstances, should a comma always precede “as well as”? I work at a highly political nonprofit where I am not always allowed to rephrase even minor things (big egos). Sometimes correct revisions are vetoed, and incorrect punctuation, improper word usage or citation formatting, grammatical mistakes, and misspellings are published rather than risk offending the original author.

A. A comma is optional in that position. The construction “E, F, as well as X,” however, should be changed, either by inserting “and” before F or by changing “as well as” to “and.” (I hope your readers don’t base their donations on the quality of your publications.)