24

When using the phrase "including but not limited to", how should it be punctuated?

When used in the following (no punctuation):

There are many activities including but not limited to running jumping and swimming

My first try:

There are many activities including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.

Then I thought... maybe I need another one? Is this, or perhaps the previous version correct?

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.

Eh, maybe that's too many.
Does this justify a colon?
Is it grammatically correct?
With or without the first comma in parens?

There are many activities(,) including, but not limited to: running, jumping, and swimming.

No? Then what about this?

There are many activities, including - but not limited to - running, jumping, and swimming.

  • Either of the last two would be acceptable to me, were I an English examiner, Cory. The first I am ruling out, because you really do need a comma after activities, the rest of the sentence being subordinate to what has gone before. The words 'but not limited to' also need a pair of commas or dashes either side, as they are obviously a subordinate clause. A good test of where to put the pair of commas is to see if the sentence makes grammatical sense if you simply remove the words between the commas. In this case it clearly does that. You have a very good grasp of all this. – user52780 Sep 30 '13 at 20:34
  • 1
    Not really a long enough list of things to justify a colon. Others may disagree. – user52780 Sep 30 '13 at 20:37
  • 2
    I don't see the need for 'but not limited to'. If you really want emphasis here, go with the dashes as in your final example - the others are less easy on the eye (in my opinion). I'd use the comma before the 'and' - guess where I took my degree. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 30 '13 at 21:24
  • 1
    Oxford comma! Use it! – SoilSciGuy Jul 14 '14 at 20:29
  • Parentheses can be used here: "There are many activities, including (but not limited to) running, jumping, and swimming." – Endy Tjahjono Nov 2 '15 at 7:27
21

My choice would be:

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping and swimming.

The comma before including shows that a new clause, even if it’s a non-finite clause, is to follow, and the comma before but and after to, indicates a weak interruption to that clause. The comma between running and jumping shows that the two are to be read as part of a list, but no comma is required after jumping, because and makes it superfluous.

10

"including but not limited to" is lawyer-speak, and comes from a lawyer's need to make sure that no one can ever, in any way, under any circumstances, think that "including" is all-inclusive. Merriam-Webster online says "including" means "to have (someone or something) as part of a group or total : to contain (someone or something) in a group or as a part of something : to make (someone or something) a part of something." So "including" has as part of its definition the fact that it is not all inclusive. Therefore "including but not limited to" is redundant (unless you are a lawyer writing a contract). Just use "including."

1

Comma use is subjective and in most, but not all cases is a style choice. The only place in that sentence where commas are required is in the list at the end (running, jumping, and swimming). The comma that I've used before and is called an Oxford comma and not all speakers feel it's necessary to include it, so that's a style choice as well.

I place punctuation according to how I want the sentence to be read whenever it's not an issue of proper grammar.

For effect I might say:

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.

That slows down the tempo.

As for the dashes, I don't think they're appropriate. If you want to use a colon, it would be more like this:

There are many activities, including but not limited to: running, jumping, and swimming.

But all of the following are grammatically correct:

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.
There are many activities, including but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.
There are many activities including but not limited to running, jumping, and swimming.
There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping and swimming.
There are many activities, including but not limited to, running, jumping and swimming.
There are many activities including but not limited to running, jumping and swimming.
  • 1
    The Oxford comma, which follows the penultimate term in a series, is known in the United States as a serial comma. – Joan Pederson Feb 26 '14 at 1:53
  • 1
    The oxford comma has been clearly pointed out to be "required" here: buzzfeed.com/adamdavis/… This may convert some of us to never again omit an oxford comma. – KnightHawk Jun 30 '14 at 13:35
0

I believe that the comma before "and" IS necessary, as it is the difference between doing either activity separately and doing both at the same time.

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping and swimming.

  1. Running
  2. Jumping and swimming (however you would do that... try this syntax with something that actually makes sense to understand my point)

There are many activities, including, but not limited to, running, jumping, and swimming.

  1. Running
  2. Jumping
  3. Swimming

I recall seeing a discussion about a comma before an "and" some time back and this was the conclusion there.

Sadly, the system here doesn't allow me to post this as a comment because of lack of reputation.

-1

The phrase "not limited to" is entirely unnecessary, so don't worry about the commas. The word "including" suggests the subsequent list is not exclusive of anything else, so "not limited to" is redundant. If you really wanted to expand on the "including," to make sure people do not think the list is exclusive, you could say, "including, among other things, . . ."

  • While this is strictly correct, "but not limited to" is useful in some scenarios as a means of emphasizing the non-exclusivity of the list. "Among other things" is fine too, although I don't see how it's necessarily better than "but not limited to". – phenry Feb 19 '14 at 23:54
  • I know I have negative reactions to my post, but it is correct. It's sloppy English to include redundant phrases, and "but not limited to" is, in fact, redundant. It does not emphasize the non-exclusivity of a list, because the word "including" itself does that. Style manuals agree with me on this point. – Joe Feb 20 '14 at 20:50
  • @Joe, so long as "include" is not used to mean "consist of" nearby in the same piece of writing, I agree with you. If it is so used, though, "but not limited to" tells the reader which sense of "include" is intended. The better solution is to avoid the "consist of" usage within the same context, applying the style guidance you've pointed out. Thanks for it! – Joan Pederson Feb 26 '14 at 1:57
  • @Joe That phrase in mainly used in legal writing. Manuals of style are of little relevance compared to minimizing loopholes when you're writing a contract. – CodesInChaos Aug 6 '14 at 9:52
  • @Joe I gave a positive reaction :) – renakre Apr 5 '16 at 2:09

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.