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I want to know what to do when a list and the clause that introduces it are reversed. For example:

The wrinkles around his eyes, the deep lines that marked his brow, the gray streak at his temples[?] everything he saw in his reflection told the story of a long life he didn't remember living.

My first inclination was to use an em dash, but I couldn't find any specific rules concerning this particular usage. Since the list isn't an independent clause, I'm fairly certain it wouldn't be a colon; still, I can't shake the nagging feeling that there's a better way to punctuate it.

I'd be grateful for any help you can give me!

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Not putting this in as an answer as I have nothing to back it up with, but I would go with an em dash. –  RegDwigнt Mar 9 '11 at 23:49
    
AKA "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama" or "A man, a plan, a canal—Panama"? –  nohat Mar 10 '11 at 0:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I believe colons are generally accepted with pure enumerations. An m-dash would be my first choice though, mostly because the enumeration precedes its introductory clause, as you say. I believe it would be the conventional choice; the step from enumeration to "everything" would be considered an anacoluthon.

The wrinkles around his eyes, the deep lines that marked his brow, the gray streak at his temples—everything he saw in his reflection told the story of a long life he didn't remember living.

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Thank you so much! That was exactly what I was looking for. –  Simon Stewart-Rinier Mar 9 '11 at 23:56

I would expect either an em-dash, a colon, or possibly a semicolon, depending on the urgency of the emotion that you wish to convey. With no other context to guide me, I'd say that the em-dash would have a connotation of surprise at what he was seeing, the colon would be neutral, and the semicolon would be contemplative.

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