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Many cases of animal suicide were discused. A duck drowned itself after the death of its companion. A school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever. A deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs. And the list went on and on.

Should I use comma, semicolon, or just leave it as it is? If I chose the semicolon, where should it start?

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None of the choices are ungrammatical: which sounds best depends on the effect you wish to achieve, and is off-topic here. –  TimLymington Mar 20 at 15:27
    
Aside: "discussed" not "discused", and generally "for no reason" rather than "with no reason". –  Oddthinking Mar 20 at 17:20
    
If you leave these as separate sentences, you might want to consider two issues. 1.) The intransitive usage of stranded here is peculiar, but it might be allowed with this meaning (dolphins stranded). 2.) Starting the last sentence with a coordinating conjunction (And the list went on) is deemed non-standard by many (but not all) references, and as a matter of style probably should be avoided. –  outis nihil Mar 20 at 17:54

5 Answers 5

Write what sounds natural. I like changing the verbs and joining with commas:

There were many cases of animal suicide in the paper: a duck drowning itself after the death of its companion, a school of dolphins beaching itself for no apparent reason, a deer throwing itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs. The list went on and on.

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I wouldn't use commas, since each incident listed is in a complete sentence. But you want to group them together to show that it is a list, so semi-colons is the best solution.

There were many cases of animal suicide in the paper. A duck drowned itself after the death of its companion; a school of dolphins [was] stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever; a deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs. And the list went on and on.

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If you consider the cases as a list you can write:

Many cases of animal suicide were discussed: a duck drowned itself after the death of its companion, a school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever, A deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs. And the list went on and on.

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If the final clause is to be introduced with an 'and', then they should be separated by commas. Whether you place a comma directly before the 'and' (a usage called the 'serial comma') is sometimes a matter of style, but in this case I would argue that it is necessary (from intuition, I'm not aware of the terminologies and conventions governing this particular case, although I suspect it's because the overall structure is a bit awkward and this is a sleight-of-hand to cover up the fact). So I would punctuate the sentence thusly:

There were many cases of animal suicide in the paper. A duck drowned itself after the death of its companion, a school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever, a deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs, and the list went on and on.

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The fact that "the list went on and on" is not actually an item in that list is it? So I wouldn't use "and" there. –  o172.net Mar 20 at 15:42
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I wouldn't structure it in this way, either, but the OP included an 'and' in his original paragraph. Rather than be presumptuous or prescriptive, I reasoned that he had made up his mind on word choice and simply wanted to know the correct punctuation to separate the component clauses. You could argue that it is a part of the list, anyway, as it serves as a placeholder for the omitted items (akin to '...and so on'). –  568ml Mar 20 at 15:50

Your current version is fine without any changes, although technically you shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction so the last sentence you would drop the 'and' (also 'discussed' has two 's's):

Many cases of animal suicide were discussed. A duck drowned itself after the death of its companion. A school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever. A deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs. The list went on and on.

If you are asking specifically about a semi-colon, you can think of them as a way of putting two sentences together or replacing a conjunction.

So for your sample it would be:

Many cases of animal suicide were discussed. A duck drowned itself after the death of its companion. A school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever. A deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs; the list went on and on.

At the risk of it becoming a run-on sentence, you could even do this as it represents a list succinctly:

Many cases of animal suicide were discussed: a duck drowned itself after the death of its companion, a school of dolphins stranded on a beach with no reason whatsoever, a deer threw itself from a cliff to avoid being eaten by hunting dogs; the list went on and on.

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"technically you shouldn't start a sentence with a conjunction". Why not? –  msam Mar 21 at 11:38
    
@msam - That's why it's called a 'conjunction' - it joins two things together. That's also why I said 'technically' because it is very common in English now to do so, so for most people it doesn't 'sound' wrong. If you're writing a conversational piece like a novel, then it is fine but I wouldn't recommend it for technical writing. –  GenericJam Mar 21 at 11:43
    
I didn't ask why it's called a conjunction. I asked why you shouldn't start a sentence with it. Try answering my question directly without using a conjunction and without repeating the whole question and you should see my point. "Don't start with a conjunction" is ludicrous advice considering all the literature and daily language that does so. –  msam Mar 21 at 11:49
    
@msam - I'm not particularly interested in a flame war over conjunctions, however the 'traditional' view is that conjunctions should not be at the beginning of a sentence. I perfectly accept that within the global reach of English, there are many variations, so in your accepted canon of English feel free to start your sentences with conjunctions. –  GenericJam Mar 21 at 12:07

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