This post from The Daily What made me laugh out loud. It's a fantastic example of why we need commas.
Where does Tails magazine go wrong? By leaving out a necessary comma in a list, it implies that Rachael Ray has cannibalistic tendencies. The cover line meant to say that Rachael is inspired by three things: (1) cooking, (2) her family, and (3) her dog. Instead, it makes us fear what's in her meatloaf.
Quick rule: When writing any list, use a comma to separate each item. The final comma separating the last two items is optional. Sometimes called the Oxford comma, it goes before the word 'and.'
A comma can completely change the meaning of the sentence. Consider Jim likes walking, his dog, and reading versus Jim likes walking his dog and reading. In the first case, Jim likes three things. In the second sentence, he likes two things.
- Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family and her dog. (without Oxford comma)
- Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking, her family, and her dog. (with Oxford comma)