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  1. #1
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    semicolons or commas?

    Hello teachers,

    Many authors seem to have a tendency to use semicolons in place of commas in running lists. Here is an example sentence:

    The trade union struggle became installed in a population which already had several frictions: partisan tensions left after the Liberal-Conservative conflict; conflicts over personal economic interests; cultural differences and hierarchies; disputes associated with land ownership; and disagreements around access to the scarce public services.

    Are semicolons OK here? I think not.

    Please let me know your take on this. Thank you!

  2. #2
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    They are fine. We use commas in a list of single words, but semicolons in a list of phrases—especially when the phrases themselves contain commas.

    Read more here.

  3. #3
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    I thought semicolons should be used in lists only when one or more of the individual elements in the list contained commas.

    Thank you!

  4. #4
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    They are fine. We use commas in a list of single words, but semicolons in a list of phrases—especially when the phrases themselves contain commas.

    Read more here.
    I checked all these sites, but all of them say that semicolons are used when one or more of the list items contain commas. The list items in my example do not contain commas, and the sentence is not ambiguous. Such being the case, would you still consider the semicolon usage proper here?

  5. #5
    bubbha is offline Senior Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    Quote Originally Posted by LaMelange View Post
    I thought semicolons should be used in lists only when one or more of the individual elements in the list contained commas.
    Yes, this is exactly how I learned the rule.
    NOT A TEACHER. Translator and editor, and I hold a TESOL certificate. Native speaker of American English (West Coast)

  6. #6
    GoesStation is offline Moderator
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    I would guess that most style guides promote the rule that we reserve semicolons for lists in which at least one phrase contains a comma. I think semicolons are appropriate in any list of long phrases. The next time I see Mr. Chicago Manual, I'll tell him.
    I am not a teacher.

  7. #7
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    This American is just fine with using semicolons as dividers when phrases get to be that long.

  8. #8
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    I will keep that in mind from today! Thank you all very much.
    Last edited by LaMelange; 09-Nov-2017 at 02:57.

  9. #9
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    Quote Originally Posted by GoesStation View Post
    I would guess that most style guides promote the rule that we reserve semicolons for lists in which at least one phrase contains a comma. I think semicolons are appropriate in any list of long phrases. The next time I see Mr. Chicago Manual, I'll tell him.
    I guess it is high time the style guides and grammar sites included this point under semicolon usage! Just a thought.

  10. #10
    LaMelange is offline Member
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    Re: semicolons or commas?

    I just now stumbled on this site: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/pu...ation-in-lists

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