1. victo
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    victo Active Member

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    Semicolons + Commas

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by victo, Feb 11, 2015.

    • Attending the ceremonies were Bob, my brother; Alexis, my sister; and Amy, my wife.
    (I say the commas and semicolons are mandatory in this sentence. Do you agree—yes or no?

    But in the next construction below, I think we could forgo the semicolons and use commas throughout (keeping in mind that I am referring to my only brother, my only sister, and my only wife).

    • Attending the ceremonies were my brother Bob, my sister Alexis, and my wife Amy. (Do you agree with the punctuation in the preceding sentence? It certainly looks better than the technically correct—and
    ugly—"Attending the ceremonies were my brother, Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife, Amy." Do you agree with me?

    Thank you.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    no
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like your first version better. It's technically correct and, unlike you, I don't find it ugly. Your second version pretty much demands that your reader know the background - that you have only one brother, only one sister, and only one wife (!).

    I wish people didn't have such a knee-jerk negative reaction to semicolons. Maybe these people weren't taught their proper use in school, but semicolons are actually rather wonderful. This is a case in which they work well.
     
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  4. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Attending the ceremonies were Bob, my brother; Alexis, my sister; and Amy, my wife.
    (I say the commas and semicolons are mandatory in this sentence. Do you agree—yes or no?


    Or write it out a little? Imagine you're spotlit on a stool narrating, also consider the speed of a reader's mind to comprehend.

    Attending the ceremonies: there was Bob. He is my brother. Alexis, my beautiful sister, and my wife of course, Amy. Amy and my sister busied themselves with the cake. I have never seen two women eat a wedding cake quite so voraciously. Their jaws hiked upon the icing, and the crumbs tumbled down their swollen breasts. Bob, he only drank beer at the bar.

    Too many semi-c's clumped together, I always think it starts to look a little agricultural.
     
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  5. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't use the semi-colons (sorry @minstrel!). A case can be made either way, but I don't like the look of it here.

    I'd even go one step further and say, "My brother Bob, sister Alexis and wife Amy attended the ceremonies."
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    @minstrel is absolutely correct. The first version requires semicolons, and the second version requires additional info for the reader.
     
  7. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I think victo might have abandoned us, but I'm still interested, so...

    Having looked into this further, I think the only thing we can say for sure is that "my wife, Amy" must have a comma, because--unless he is Mormon--he probably one has one wife. But he might have more than one brother/sister. If he does, the comma after brother/sister would not be necessary.

    Depending on how many siblings the speaker has, one of these sentences would be correct:

    My brother, Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    My brother Bob; my sister Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    My brother, Bob; my sister Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    My brother Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.

    I still don't like how it looks, though.:)
     
  8. victo
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    victo Active Member

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    To ensure that I understand the punctuation in those sentences, I inserted my explanations in parentheses below each one. Am I correct with all? Thank you.

    My brother, Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    (= I have 1 brother, 1 sister, and 1 wife)

    My brother Bob; my sister Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    (= I have more than 1 brother, more than 1 sister, and only 1 wife)

    My brother, Bob; my sister Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    (= I have 1 brother, more than 1 sister, and only 1 wife)

    My brother Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife, Amy, attended.
    (= I have more than 1 brother and only 1 sister and wife)

    My brother, Bob; my sister, Alexis; and my wife Amy attended.
    (= I have 1_brother, 1 sister, and more than 1 wife)
     
  9. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Yes, that's how I understand the rule. However, in fiction, I wouldn't ever write a sentence like this.
     
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  10. victo
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    victo Active Member

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    Would you write them that way in nonfiction?
     
  11. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    It depends on what you're writing. It might work in a report. But I don't write nonfiction, so I can't help much there.
     
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  12. victo
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    victo Active Member

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    Yup. I don't write fiction, just reports.
     
  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Interesting. I'm starting a thread in a minute and I hope you will contribute.
     
  14. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    I love semicolons, but I can't quite think of a sentence that would use one; it's one of those punctuation marks that has a mind of its own.

    Whoa.

    See what I mean?
     

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