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Semicolons Separating Elements in a Series

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Semicolons Instead of Commas

We reviewed this rule when we discussed the serial-comma rule in the discussion on the comma above. It bears repeating, however. When elements in a series are long and complex or involve internal punctuation, they should be separated by semicolons for the sake of clarity:

The company has offices in Greensboro, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; London, England; and Taipei,Taiwan. (Commas within elements.)

The committee reviewed the Jones Report, which was written in 2006; the Jackson Study, which came from the regional office; and the Commissioner's Report, which prompted the initial controversy. (Commas within elements.)

"Since the earliest days philosophers have dreamed of a country where the mind and spirit of man would be free; where there would be no limits to inquiry; where men would be free to explore the unknown and to challenge the most deeply rooted beliefs and principles." Justice Hugo Black, The Bill of Rights, 35 N.Y.U. L. Rev. pp. 880-81 (1960). (Elements are long and complex.)


Previous: “However” and Other Conjunctive Adverbs

Next: Semicolons with Quotation Marks

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1 Comment
  • glennr.52890
    I often have occasion to list many phrases separated by commas. Then if I want to add a phrase which has a comma within it, I separate that phrase from the others by placing a semicolon on either side of it and leaving the other commas intact. I think this looks more readable than separating the entire list with semicolons. What does a grammar expert think of this practice? 
    LikeReply2 years ago


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