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I would like to state a fact, and then, if possible, in the same sentence, iterate over a list of properties related to that fact.

Here are a few examples:

The construction site had two entrances: one to the east, and one to the west.


The construction site had two entrances, one to the east; and one to the west.

Is either of these the preferred method? Are there ways of saying this in a similar fashion that would be correct or 'more preferable'?

EDIT: I've recently found this > http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon < which suggests the semicolon method is the right way to go. I'll leave the question here to invoke any comments.

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Your link does also say "don't use it with conjunctions". You're using "and", so the semicolon is wrong according to your link (als also according to my sense of languages, but that's another thing) – Em1 Jul 10 '12 at 14:37
See this similar question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/73896/… – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 10 '12 at 14:38
@cornbreadninja Thanks! Does your answer still apply given that the items I am appending aren't really in 'support' of my original statement? – nagytech Jul 10 '12 at 14:42
Forget I said that. @Em1 is right because one to the east and one to the west doesn't stand as an independent clause. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 10 '12 at 14:47
I frame the sentences in these ways in writing: (1)The construction site has two entrances, one to the east and the other to the west. (2)The construction site has three entrances: first/one to the east, second to the west and third to the south. (3)The construction site has an entrance each to the east, the west, the south and the north. (Not really a good choice though) (4)The construction site has two entrances, both to the east. (5)The construction site has three entrances, one towards east and the other two towards west. – Fr0zenFyr Jul 10 '12 at 19:22
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Your first example looks quite nice:

The construction site had two entrances: One to the east and one to the west.

I, personally, prefer capitalizing the letter after the colon, though British people tend to use lower case.

Your second example is wrong. You can use the semicolon to connect two sentences but one to the west is actually not a full sentence. Moreover you use the conjunction and to connect the two parts and then you only can place a comma precedent to and but not a semicolon.

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Are there any definitive sources you can point me to that can confirm this? Google just returns people's random blog articles which aren't really reliable. (I don't mean to pry.) Thx – nagytech Jul 10 '12 at 15:25
@Geoist What exactly is doubtful? The link you provided do confirm most of my points. – Em1 Jul 10 '12 at 15:35
The link I provided may confirm your points, but the link also provides an example where the semi colon is used to separate items in a list as exemplified by my second sentence. In the link, see the part under the hamburger where the guy is eating a jar of mayonnaise. Due to this discrepancy, I'd hardly consider my provided link to be an authority and still feel reluctant about either method. – nagytech Jul 11 '12 at 0:20
@Geoist: As for the "mayo guy", that's a different condition altogether. You use commas to separate items in a list, right? (My three favorite actors are Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, and Clint Eastwood.) But when the list items are more complex, and contain commas themselves, then you use semi-colons instead. (My three favorite movies are The Man from Snowy River, which is set in Australia; Big Fish, which is about a man's estranged relationship with his father; and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which, besides being a classic spaghetti western, has a great musical score.) – J.R. Jul 11 '12 at 0:31
@J.R. Thanks, with the "mayo guy", I missed the critical bit about the pre-existing commas. OWL Confirms this in the third paragraph under semicolon. So if my original requirement was "The site had three entrances, one to the east for women, children, and the elderly; one to the north for royalty, police and dignitaries; and one to the south for common people." I would be correct. – nagytech Jul 11 '12 at 0:31

For these examples, several correct punctuations are possible besides the correct one shown in your first example. In the second one, the comma and semicolon combination is wrong. It would still be wrong if one to the east were replaced by an independent clause, as then you'd have a runon sentence. It's less clear-cut when one to the west is replaced; for example, It had two entrances, one of them to the east; and that's where I went in is sound.

As noted, the first example is correct, but it's portentous (ie puffed up). Instead of The construction site had two entrances: one to the east, and one to the west I'd write The construction site had entrances east and west or perhaps The construction site had east and west entrances, and let people assume no other entrances exist. But if it's important to emphasize the existence of no other entrances, there might be nothing much shorter than what you have. For example, I think neither of The construction site had two entrances, east and west and The construction site had two entrances, both east and west perfectly distinguishes between there being one east entrance and one west entrance vs two east entrances and two west entrances. The construction site had just an east and a west entrance might work, or more explicitly, The construction site had just one east and one west entrance.

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Thanks, you spotted the key issue where I need to emphasise the existence of no other entrances. I didn't pick up on the possibility that the number of entrances could be implied, good point. I don't know why I'm being so pedantic about this one sentence. – nagytech Jul 11 '12 at 0:28

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