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I have trouble punctuating elliptical constructions. Which of these is correct?

Asterix defeated seven Romans; Obelix, three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, Obelix, three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans; Obelix three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, Obelix three.

What if I include the conjunction?

Asterix defeated seven Romans, and Obelix, three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, and Obelix three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans and Obelix three.

Is the punctuation different for shorter constructions?

Obelix missed her, and she him.

Obelix missed her, and she, him.

Obelix missed her and she, him.

Obelix missed her and she him.

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2  
Poor Obelix, Tragicomix, why don't you just give up little Panacea? :-) –  Thursagen Jun 20 '11 at 11:45
    
Yes, I giggled at that @Ham and Bacon Very cute! But consider this a sidebar comment, from one Oink to another. More in context, @Ham and Bacon contributed often, @Feral Oink rarely. That was meant humorously ;@) –  Feral Oink Jun 20 '11 at 13:30
2  
I have been wondering about this for a long time. Does anyone have a reference to a style guide? Apart from correctness, there must be more to this. –  Cerberus Jun 20 '11 at 19:25
    
@Feral Oink, all we have to wait for now is @YearofthePig, than we can make a delicious Asian porky dish called "Three layer pork"... –  Thursagen Jun 27 '11 at 3:20
    
@Ham and Bacon I confess, I have gravitated to you to some extent. English StackExchange is a rather small community, so it seems unlikely that we'll be able to form a full Oink triumverate. But we might get lucky and find our third. I'll keep an ear up just in case. Is there truly a member named @YearofthePig ? I just realized that you might have meant that in earnest! –  Feral Oink Jul 6 '11 at 18:48
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted
+100

Source: NASA's Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors

When clauses in a sentence contain repeated elements (for example, the verb), the omission of these elements is indicated by a comma, and a semicolon separates the elliptical clauses.

Wind speed is obtained from antenna brightness temperature; rain rate, from the brightness temperature difference at two frequencies; and wind vector, from radar cross section.

The comma may be omitted if the clauses are short. Of course, when the commas are unnecessary to indicate omission, the semicolon can be replaced by a comma so long as the clauses are joined by a conjunction:

Wind speed is obtained from antenna brightness temperature, and wind vector from radar cross section.

But

Wind speed is obtained from antenna brightness temperature; wind vector, from radar cross section.

Therefore, I think the right choices would be:

Asterix defeated seven Romans; Obelix, three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, and Obelix three.

Obelix missed her; she, him.

Obelix missed her, and she him.

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4  
+1 for citing NASA. If we can put a man on the moon, we ought to be able to consistently punctuate an elliptical construction. –  krubo Jun 27 '11 at 0:47
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A semicolon really helps to separate matters, without making the ideas seem to distant. It's usage is voluntary, but in this case I would recommend it:

Asterix defeated seven Romans; Obelix, three.

If you were to add a conjunction, the first two examples would have been fine, but the comma musn't be missed out.

For the last case presented, I would choose:

Asterix missed her, and she him.

but you could choose "Asterix missed her, and she, him" as well.

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No, definitely not. Each part before and after a semicolon must be able to be its own sentence. –  kzh Jun 28 '11 at 10:48
    
Asterix missed her, and she, him. is definitely not correct (at least with the meaning intended) here. –  DKGasser Jun 29 '11 at 16:12
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I would recommend for the following as the clearest of each choice.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, Obelix three.

Asterix defeated seven Romans, and Obelix three.

Asterix missed her, and she him.

And of the first two, I would choose this one as the clearest:

Asterix defeated seven Romans, and Obelix three.

However, I suspect much of this is down to style and consistency rather than correctness.

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1  
I disagree... I mean, "_Obelix three*" after the semicolon without a comma is horrible :D but I'm not sure whether it's matter of personal preference or if it's right like that. (Although personally I think it should be.) –  Alenanno Jun 20 '11 at 11:11
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Now I look again, I prefer it with a comma instead of the semicolon, and no extra comma. Answer edited. Probably most of these things will be down to style rather than correctness. –  Hugo Jun 20 '11 at 11:36
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