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If I'm listing expressions in a sentence, do I put the proper punctuation for the sentence as well as a comma after the expression?

For example:

Objectives

To learn to use the expressions "Would you like to run?", "Yes, I would.", and "No, I wouldn't."

OR

Objectives

To learn to use the expressions "Would you like to run," "Yes, I would," and "No, I wouldn't."


Additionally, should there be any punctuation after the word "expressions"?

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2 Answers

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There is no universal rule for that sort of situation; it is something that a style guide would typically address. There would probably also be some differences in American vs British styles.

Personally, I favor the first. It keeps the original punctuation of the quote intact and seems clear enough. I would add no punctuation after the word 'expressions'.

You might also consider rewording things using a bulleted list to avoid the issue. For example:

To learn to use the expressions:

  • "Would you like to run?"

  • "Yes, I would."

  • etc.

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A conventional way of listing items that contain their own punctuation is to separate those items by a semicolon rather than by a comma. Your example text would appear as follows:

To learn to use the expressions, "Would you like to run?"; "Yes, I would."; and "No, I wouldn't."

And yes, there must be a comma after "expressions", since what follows offers details that clarify that plural noun.

The semicolons may feel unnatural but it is a common construct when dealing with awkward lists like yours.

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I really think the semicolons look strange, I know you use semi colons when your list contains phrases without quotes, but with quotes it just looks strange. Can you cite a source for this? –  activepassive Jul 6 '13 at 3:38
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