1. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Semi colon? comma? Nothing?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by doggiedude, May 3, 2016.

    The line I'm trying to fix is

    The mixture contained, one piece of cashew, three almond slivers, six walnut pieces, one walnut half, and twenty-seven peanuts.
    I have several different pieces of software telling me different things. One says the above is correct.
    Another wants this:
    The mixture contained; one piece of cashew, three almond slivers, six walnut pieces, one walnut half, and twenty-seven peanuts.
    And a third is okay with this:
    The mixture contained one piece of cashew, three almond slivers, six walnut pieces, one walnut half, and twenty-seven peanuts.

    I'm thinking the semicolon is correct but every time I try to use one of those damned things I get told I'm wrong.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    The third one is correct, in my view. You don't need a comma in the place indicated, and the semi-colon doesn't make sense to me.
     
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  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You could also do the following:

    The mixture contained: one piece of cashew; three almond slivers; six walnut pieces; one walnut half; and twenty-seven peanuts.

    If you really want to use semi-colons, that is. But that's a bit unwieldy.
     
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  4. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    It's a full colon or nothing. A comma or semi-colon doesn't make sense; the second part isn't a new clause and the relationship is tighter than a semi-colon would allow because it wouldn't be replacing a conjunction. So either a full colon, because you are introducing a list, or nothing because nothing is needed.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    It would definitely NOT be the comma after 'contained.' Either no punctuation or a colon should follow. If this is a piece of fiction, I'd go for simply leaving the first comma out, and separate the items with commas, as @Steerpike suggested. However, a colon to introduce the list, plus semicolons to separate the list is also correct, but as Steerpike also pointed out, it's a tad clunky and formal for a piece of fiction. @LostThePlot has explained the reasoning behind the usages.
     
  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the answers.
    I almost expected someone to tell me that my nut description either wasn't good enough or was unnecessary. :D
     
  7. Nicolle Evans
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    Nicolle Evans Member

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    Personally I would write:

    The mixture contained: one piece of cashew: three almond slivers, six walnut pieces, one walnut half, and twenty-seven peanuts.

    But I'm doing a proofreading course and this is just what it recommends for lists.


    "
    Rule 1a. Use a colon to introduce an item or a series of items. Do not capitalize the first item after the colon (unless it's a proper noun).

    Examples:
    You know what to do: practice.
    You may be required to bring many things: sleeping bags, pans, utensils, and warm clothing.
    I want the following items: butter, sugar, and flour.
    I need an assistant who can do the following: input data, write reports, and complete tax forms.


    "
    source: http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/colons.asp
     
  8. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    You can never spend too long describing nuts. Anyone who tells you different is not a professional writer.




    (;))
     
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  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Without knowing the rest of the story, I couldn't say. :)

    But...

    A colon (full) after 'contained' unless it's for a novel, then it's optional (replaced by nothing).

    The only time you would use a semicolon to separate items in a list would be if one or more of the items included commas within them.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Unless you are writing non-fiction, and, particular, legal documents, where it is done all the time and sometimes required.
     
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  11. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Use a semicolon where a complete stop or a comma would work, but you can't commit yourself to one or the other. Or never use it and simply use a complete stop or a comma. No need to overcomplicate it and start adding them willy-nilly just for show. That's when it goes all wrong. :)
     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, but lawyers are known for twisting words, so why not the rules of grammar as well? :)
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure if you're being serious... but, no, the semicolon isn't a sort of waffle-punctuation half-way between a period and a comma. The only times I can think of that you could use a semicolon instead of a comma is in the aforementioned list format.
     
  14. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I use them to stitch associated clauses; as well as separating a general from his particulars. Yeah; so too weak to be a comma, yet not hardcore enough to be a colon.

    Did I get that right? ^
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope. Semi-colons have two basic functions - they can substitute for commas in a list, or they can join two independent clauses (which would be grammatically correct sentences if a period were used instead of the semi-colon.

    Punctuation is tricky; as well as important. - NO
    Punctuation is tricky; it's also important. - YES
     
  16. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    Makes sense—cheers. * steals * your missing bracket and adds it to my semicolon. ;)
     

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