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Overusing “and” and how to fix it

I often need to express something along the lines of X and Y, where Y is two things, e.g.

Cindy owns a boat and [both red and blue] cars.

Using "and" in both places is somewhat ambiguous, so I often resort to "as well as":

Cindy owns a boat as well as both red and blue cars.

This feels too wordy, and it sounds awkward if I start to use it too frequently. Is there a better solution?


This example may be too simple. Here's a more complex example (from my comment below) where the adjectives are only applicable to one of the two nouns and there's more than two adjectives:

Last summer, Joe learned about computer programming as well as Indian, Chinese, Russian and Irish culture.

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marked as duplicate by coleopterist, ghoppe, MετάEd, Mark Beadles, Cameron Oct 13 '12 at 5:34

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

None of these seems “redundant”:

  • Cindy owns a boat and red and blue cars.
  • Cindy owns red and blue cars, and a boat.
  • Cindy owns red and blue cars, and a boat, too.

The real problem is that you are giving the cars a color but not the boat, so this sentence fails on parallelism, and makes the reader wonder whether you might have left something out.

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You also can't really tell whether they own a few two-color cars or two single-color cars, unless you use the as well as both red and blue construction. – Jim Oct 12 '12 at 14:48
Cindy owns a red car, a blue car, and a boat. – coleopterist Oct 12 '12 at 15:13
@tchrist Unlikely, perhaps. Possible, yes. – ghoppe Oct 12 '12 at 18:59
@coleopterist Nails it. If she is particularly rich, perhaps Cindy owns red cars, blue cars, and a boat. – ghoppe Oct 12 '12 at 19:04
Hmmm, volvo-480-europe.org/images/gallery/paintjobs/red_blue.jpg @ghoppe, Yes, that is the intended meaning but the phrasing in this answer is technically ambiguous. IMHO, "Cindy owns a boat as well as both red and blue cars" is the least ambiguous. – Jim Oct 12 '12 at 20:13

This is why punctuation was invented.

Cindy owns a boat, and red and blue cars.

You can even use a semicolon if the comma isn't enough for you. This usage is now sanctioned by Chicago, although it wasn't when I was in high school: Cindy owns a boat; and red and blue cars.

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Are you sure about this? I was under the impression that semicolons are usually reserved for independent clauses and not to be used with conjunctions. Likewise the comma usage above doesn't seem to fall into either of the cases described here: getitwriteonline.com/archive/020204whencommabfand.htm – jd39 Oct 12 '12 at 20:56

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