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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

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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

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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