1. Kertesz
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    Kertesz New Member

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    Sentence structure; lists

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Kertesz, Jul 7, 2009.

    This a long sentence taken from the middle of my introduction to an English report.

    "I have researched a range of different written interpretations - namely the novels War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding; the essay Non-Acting by an older and reformed Leo Tolstoy; and the Bhagavad-Gita, an important Hindu scripture transcribed by Vyāsa – in order to discover whether there exist any particular characteristics commonly viewed to be an essential element of morality."

    Have I used semi-colons, "and"s, and commas properly? To me the list seems to make sense, but it would be nice to know that it was structured in a technically correct way. Would anyone here list the texts in a different manner?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Necromortis
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    Necromortis Member

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    I'm unsure if the semi-colons are really necessary, but other than that it looks alright. Make sure to set the titles of the books and essays out with underlining or quotations as well.

    Cheers,
    ~Christian
     
  3. A2theDre
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    A2theDre Active Member

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    Grrrr, I had reworded what you'd done but it made less sense than your original. Yours reads fine, but something is telling me that something is wrong but I can't quite put my finger on it.

    There was another comma/semicolon thread around but I couldn't find it. Sorry I can't be of more help.
     
  4. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The use of semi-colons in a list like that is usually only necessary after a colon (as in, written interpretatins, namely: blah blah; blah blah; blah blah.)
    My main problem is the rest of that sentence....what is War & Peace an interpretation of? I can't think of any way that could be true...and reading them isn't researching them...considering this is an academic essay, you need to be more precise in your wording - don't try to use long words, just use the right words.
     
  5. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    It's fine except that you should use double hyphens (--) to signify em dashes. And it would be less awkward if you broke it up into two sentences.

    e.g.: "I have researched a range of different written interpretations--namely the novels War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding; the essay Non-Acting by an older and reformed Leo Tolstoy; and the Bhagavad-Gita, an important Hindu scripture transcribed by Vyāsa. My aim [or "the aim of this research" e.g.] is to discover whether there exist any particular characteristics commonly viewed to be an essential element of morality."

    This way, you could also use (instead of the em dash) a colon to offset the list, like this ...

    "I have researched a range of different written interpretations: the novels War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding; the essay Non-Acting by an older and reformed Leo Tolstoy; and the Bhagavad-Gita, an important Hindu scripture transcribed by Vyāsa. My aim is to discover whether there exist any particular characteristics commonly viewed to be an essential element of morality." [This one would be my choice, really. Because the em dash usually suggests an example or explanation or shift in thought rather than a list to follow--which is really one very precise function of a colon.]

    Might put a comma after "namely," if you choose to use it. But I think the word confuses the list a little, because the semicolons are separating categories of reading material, so that "namely" kind of doesn't continue to serve the same purpose beyond the first semicolon (as you intend for it to do).
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, you can use semicolons to separate list items, particularly complex items that may contain commas. The list should be preceded by a colon rather than an em dash, though. The word namely is unnecessary noise.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    he beat me to it, again!

    yes, what cog said... and i also have to ditto mm's admonition re using a double hyphen for em dashes, though they don't work with the semicolons...

    and that awkwardly dangling 'in order to' rationale should start off the sentence, which will make the necessary colon before the series work perfectly and the whole thing read more coherently...

    plus, titles should be in italics, with comma before 'by'... also, semicolons are not used as well as they should be and the whole thing is overwordy to the point of babble... so here's a pared down version that makes better sense and is better grammatically and technically:

    remember that age-old best axiom re writing, 'less is more'!... hope this helps... hugs, maia
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't see why semi-colons are necessary because I don't think you should include more information than the title and name in that sentence. Further information about those titles can be explained in another sentence.

    To discover if critics believe an essential element of morality exists, I have researched literary interpretations of the following works: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Non-Acting by Tolstoy, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and the Bhagavad Gita by Vyasa. The Gita is sacred to the Hindus.

    Change critics to the proper title of the people's interpretations you've read.

    Here are words that I believe are unnecessary in your sentences.

    "I have researched a range of different written interpretations in order to discover whether there exist any particular characteristics are commonly viewed to be an essential element of morality."
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the semis are needed, because 'by' should be preceded by a comma... and the bhagavad gita isn't 'by' vyasa, was only 'transcribed by him, purportedly being the words of a deity...
     
  10. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I'm not arguing with you or anyting, Maia, but I looked at essays and they don't use a comma before by. To be sure I sent my rewrite to "ask the grammar lady" and she said no commas before "by."
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Sorry, architectus, but in most cases the author clause would be considered parenthetical, so it should be set off with commas. For example, War and Peace identifies the novel pretty well even if Leo Tolstoy is not mentioned. It is considered supplementary information unless the uthor is needed to distinguish that particular work from several others of the same name. Conventionally, therefore, the title is separated from the author with a comma.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!
     

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