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I had lived most of my life suffering from panic attacks, of being afraid of everything for absolutely no reason at all.

It's a kind of stylized sentence. The second half is saying the same thing as the first half in a slightly more descriptive way. It looks like a sentence and a sentence fragment separated by a comma. Can proper punctuation fix this sentence, or is this sentence just a bad way to express this idea?

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Apostrophes Shmapostrophes! –  coleopterist Jan 7 '13 at 19:36
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The punctuation isn't the problem here, the parallelism (or rather, lack thereof) is. "I had lived most of my life" is the first part of both portions, which means that "of" after the comma has no business being there. –  Marthaª Jan 8 '13 at 0:04
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3 Answers 3

You could write it like this:

I had lived most of my life suffering from panic attacks; I was afraid of everything for absolutely no reason at all.

That would be a valid sentence but you do need both parts separated by the semi-colon to be complete sentences which is why the subject "I" had to be added.

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You can tweak your sentence so that an allowable ellipsis is used:

I had lived most of my life suffering from panic attacks - being afraid of everything for absolutely no reason at all.

The unellipted form is unwieldy (but could be used for greater emphasis of the explanatory restatement):

I had lived most of my life suffering from panic attacks: I had lived most of my life being afraid of everything for absolutely no reason at all.

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I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with this sentence as it stands, because it sounds informal and could be a diary or letter.

For something more formal or 3rd person, I would personally opt for "I had lived most of my life suffering from panic attacks: I was afraid of everything for absolutely no reason at all." or "John had lived most of his life ..."

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No. See Martha's comment above. –  Edwin Ashworth Jan 10 '13 at 20:41
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