Need help with commas and semicolons
February 16, 2020 2:04 PM   Subscribe

Is this punctuated correctly (example made up for illustration)?

“The State Political League; the Regional Progressive Group; and the Liberal Alliance, Central Valley Chapter; all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.”
posted by NotLost to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
 
Take out the last one! In this case the semicolon is acting as a kind of supercomma, separating list elements some of which include commas in them. You wouldn't have a comma in this space if you were using commas, so no semicolon there either.
posted by babelfish at 2:09 PM on February 16, 2020 [7 favorites]


I personally would drop a dash in place of the last semicolon. IANAG, IANYG (grammarian).
posted by j_curiouser at 2:15 PM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]


Depending on the context, I might use either:

The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Liberal Alliance: Central Valley Chapter all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.

The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Central Valley Chapter of the Liberal Alliance all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.

or

The State Political League; the Regional Progressive Group; the Liberal Alliance, Central Valley Chapter: all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath. (more oratorical, like a speech)
posted by amtho at 2:18 PM on February 16, 2020 [11 favorites]


I would go with " The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Central Valley Chapter of the Liberal Alliance all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath" (per amtho) or "The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Liberal Alliance (Central Valley Chapter) all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath."

The last semicolon is definitely superfluous. It is correct to use the semicolon to demarcate list items that themselves contain commas, but when it is so easy to recast the sentence to avoid that, I think that's the better option.
posted by adamrice at 2:28 PM on February 16, 2020 [5 favorites]


The group names get divided by commas. No need for semicolons anywhere.

The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Liberal Alliance-Central Valley Chapter all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:28 PM on February 16, 2020 [15 favorites]


I suggest flipping the sentence around to help introduce the list to the reader, and changing the way the chapter is identified:
The recent actions of Ivan Horvath are opposed by The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Central Valley Chapter of the Liberal Alliance.
posted by katra at 2:44 PM on February 16, 2020 [10 favorites]


Agree with Thorzdad, but favor katra's rearrangement even more.
posted by Rash at 4:08 PM on February 16, 2020 [2 favorites]


yes to Thorzdad*. All you really need are commas.

As I learned it, a semi-colon is for a technically complete sentence that, for whatever reason (maybe you don't want to give it so much emphasis), you don't wish to present as a discrete sentence.

* except I'd go with a dash before the "all oppose". Also add some brackets to stop a bit of stumble in and around that damned Liberal Alliance ...

In other words:

The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group and the Liberal Alliance (Central Valley Chapter) -- all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.
posted by philip-random at 5:44 PM on February 16, 2020


I think people are getting hung up on this particular made-up example. Assuming that one of the items in the sequence is a proper name that contains a comma, then you should use semicolons in between the items, but not at the end.

Don't start changing the names of actual organizations when there's a simple, well-established grammatical solution already at hand. (Former professional proofreader; IANYP.)
posted by Umami Dearest at 6:14 PM on February 16, 2020 [8 favorites]


I went with this:
The State Political League, the Regional Progressive Group, and the Central Valley Chapter of the Liberal Alliance all oppose the recent actions by Ivan Horvath.

That also jibes with my recollection of grammar. No option was “looking right”.

I often would have rearranged, as katra suggested. But I had already said, “Three groups denounced blah blah … .” My point with this sentence was to introduce the three groups.

Thanks, all.
posted by NotLost at 6:50 PM on February 16, 2020 [5 favorites]


And the "all" that I initially put in was not needed and, I think, added confusion.
posted by NotLost at 6:50 PM on February 16, 2020 [1 favorite]


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