I am having trouble writing a seemingly simple sentence. I am organising an event where three kinds of food will be served:

  • hot beverages
  • cold beverages
  • finger food

My trouble deals with putting these three items together in one sentence. I have tried several ways, but all of them seem wrong:

  • Hot and cold beverages and finger food will be served at every meeting (two and)
  • Hot, cold beverages and finger food [...] (it looks like hot is a complete item)
  • Hot beverages, cold beverages and finger food [...] (redundant beverages)
  • Hot beverages, cold drinks and finger food [...] (dirty trick; I don't like it)

Putting finger food in front does not help either. What would be the right way to write this sentence?

  • 4
    There's nothing wrong with using and twice. Your first sentence is fine: entirely understandable and not awkward. ("Small food" is a phrase I've not encountered before, but that's beside the point here.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Jan 18 '13 at 8:08
  • Beverages including both hot and cold would be followed by small food at every meeting.
    – Mistu4u
    Jan 18 '13 at 8:12
  • @AndrewLeach Yes, I might use finger food instead.
    – Gorpik
    Jan 18 '13 at 8:14
  • Small food may not be understood by everyone. I have only ever seen small used to describe comestibles in Sri Lanka, where it occurs as small eats. Jan 18 '13 at 8:24
  • 1
    Phrase subordination is a great power and a great responsibility. Use it wisely. Jan 19 '13 at 17:05

Duplicating and is to be avoided if it causes ambiguity or confusion. Even then, use of an "Oxford comma" can sometimes remove the problem.

If this isn't the case, it's perfectly fine to duplicate and:

Hot and cold beverages and finger food will be served at every meeting.

Finger food and hot and cold beverages will be served at every meeting.

Finger food, and hot and cold beverages, will be served at every meeting.

Hot and cold beverages, and finger food, will be served at every meeting.

Are all perfectly fine, in approximate order of which strikes my personal subjective opinions as the better.

  • Do you mean from better to worse or the other way around?
    – Gorpik
    Jan 18 '13 at 11:50
  • I prefer the first very slightly to the second, and so on. The commas in particular - while they could serve a more useful role in a similar but more complex sentence - are technically allowed, but needless. It's very much a matter of personal preference between four equally grammatical, clear and functional sentences, so I certainly won't get into a long-winded defence if someone would order them differently.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 18 '13 at 11:55

Although like Andrew Leach commented your first statement is absolutely okay, as you wish not to use any of them, I can suggest something more complex.

  1. Beverages including both hot and cold would be followed by finger food at every meeting.
  2. At every meeting there will be finger food along with both kind of beverages, i.e. hot and cold.
  • I don't really like these alternatives, but thank you anyway. I'd rather stick to my first option, even if I'm not completely happy with it.
    – Gorpik
    Jan 18 '13 at 8:31

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