This questions is mostly dealing with complex sentences. I know we're supposed to avoid them, but I just really want to know the correct way to punctuate them. I've provided some examples below. 1. Each guest brought something to show their respects -flowers, candles, incense, various gifts- everything was piled on a long table in the center of the boat. * Here I don't want to use a conjunction in my list and I don't really want to break the sentence up. How do I punctuate?* 2. Of course -as is typical with funerals, and events of the sort- a head count is rarely exact, and 152 people showed up. *I don't want to break this down, Just ensure proper punctuation. Because "of course" (an introductory phrase?) would usually be followed by a comma I'm not sure the rules when it is followed by "as is ..." (nonessential clause/element?)* 3. Flowers, candles, incense, various gifts: everything was piled on a long table in the center of the boat. *Sometimes I want to list items at the start of a sentence, a la here, but I'm not sure how to punctuate.* 4. I later learned that, on a similar cruise, in the past, crabs had escaped and wrecked havoc on the ship; part of me was hoping this would happen again-it didn't. *I know I could say "on a past cruise" and get rid of the "in the past" but I'm weary that doesn't emphasize the fact that it was another cruise dealing with the same uncommon event.* (in this story- a Buddhist funeral) 5. Many guests, especially those older and less-obliged to being waited on, let their trash to pile up?on and around them, rather than using the many convenient trashcans. *Same as the above. I don't want to break the sentence up, just use proper commas, hyphens and semi-colons. Also, if this has any tense issues let me know!* 6. Once everyone was situated, we took drink orders -no one ordered alcoholic drinks, my tips would stay low- and helped divvy out the food. *Comma after the "once everyone..." because it's introductory, and I'm unsure of the rest... 7. Then, one member of each family, presumably the remaining patriarch, reached into their respective urns and pulled out handfuls of ashes, throwing them into the wind. That's all I have for now. T.I.A for all the help!