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What is the appropriate punctuation to indicate that the phrase "or agency-recognized equivalent" refers to both instruction and examination in the following phrase?

X has successfully completed Y instruction and passed the Z examination or agency-recognized equivalent.

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closed as not a real question by simchona, Lynn, kiamlaluno, RegDwigнt Feb 24 '12 at 10:16

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Just add an s to make it equivalents. Or spell it out as "agency-recognized equivalent instruction and examination" –  Matt Эллен Feb 24 '12 at 9:37

1 Answer 1

No amount of punctuation can indicate that, because "instruction ... and examination" is not a single phrase: "instruction" is the direct object of "completed", and "examination" is the direct object of "passed". So you can't coordinate them both with the noun-phrase "agency-recognized equivalent". You'll need to rephrase. Perhaps

... has either successfully completed ... instruction and passed the ... examination, or else completed an agency-recognized equivalent ...

?

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That's right. Better to split things up and not try to get too much information in one single sentence. In simple sentences, punctuation can help; in complex ones, it's a minefield. –  John Lawler Feb 23 '12 at 19:59

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