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Which of the following is correct?

  1. This not only produces higher success rates, it increases our energy and morale instead of depleting them.
  2. This not only produces higher success rates; it increases our energy and morale instead of depleting them.
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The comma is correct.

The semicolon would be correct if the first clause was a complete sentence, but it is not. It includes "not only," which calls for a linking word, such as "also." ("This not only produces higher success rates, it also increases....")

If you were to leave out "not only," the semicolon would become correct (but you would also lose the comparison you are trying to convey).

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Or if you wanted to retain the semicolon and the comparison, you could change "This not only produces" to something like "This doesn't just produce." – Sven Yargs Feb 27 '13 at 0:32
@SvenYargs Well, I see what you're going for, but I would still be uncomfortable with the semicolon. "Doesn't just produce" is really a version of "not only produces." Break it down, and you can see this more easily: "Doesn't just produce" equals "does not just (only) produce." Its syntactical effect is exactly the same. "Doesn't just" SEEMS more complete, but it really isn't; using that version, I would still want to say, "This doesn't just produce higher success rates, it also increases...." – John M. Landsberg Feb 27 '13 at 0:46
If I said, "I don't just make copyediting suggestions," would you accept it as a complete sentence? And if you would, would you also accept it as the first part of a compound sentence roped off with a semicolon? – Sven Yargs Feb 27 '13 at 1:13
@SvenYargs Yes, I would, but it still carries the implication of something more yet to be revealed. I admit I'm talking nuance here; I think it's BETTER to see it as incomplete (just begging for the other end of the implication to show up), but I admit it's definitely not wrong to view that clause as a complete sentence. Strictly speaking, you are quite right. But consider this: If you said those words to me and stopped there, I would feel compelled to say, "Oh, cool, Sven, and what else do you do?" I couldn't respond with only, "Oh. Okay." I mean, I COULD, but I hope I'm not that rude. :-) – John M. Landsberg Feb 27 '13 at 1:29

Actually, we do have two independent clauses on each side of the punctuation marker. Thus, the use of the comma is technically incorrect (it's what's known as a comma splice). That being said, it has fallen into somewhat common use to use the comma there rather than a semicolon or period; as a result, you could probably get away with using a comma.

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I don't think it would become a comma splice thanks to not only in the first clause. – Rathony Feb 23 at 9:16
Granted, there are a good number of native English speakers who would discount the possibility of "This not only produces higher success rates" as a non-sentence on the basis that it is not commonly used (nor is it commonly useful in everyday conversation). This gets into the debate on linguistic prescriptivism vs linguistic descriptivism, however, and that's a conversation for private messaging. – David McKnight Feb 23 at 9:31
"This not only produces higher success rates" is still an independent clause, and can stand as its own sentence, however awkward it may seem. – David McKnight Feb 23 at 9:32

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