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How should this sentence be punctuated?

The former are dogs, the latter: cats.

Or is it:

The former are dogs; the latter, cats.

Or something else?

  • I much prefer the second. – WS2 Apr 25 '14 at 6:20
  • "The former are dogs and the latter, cats." Using the semi-colon, comma/colon and a period in such a restricted sentence looks very cluttered. I think this is a question of style and POB, primarily opinion based. – Mari-Lou A Apr 25 '14 at 7:05
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I much prefer the second.

The first is, in any case, incorrect. A colon would be used to introduce a list. Here there is no list, it is just one word.

'The latter cats' is simply another sentence, added to the first in which the verb is implied, it having been used in the first part.

What you are in essence saying is 'The former are dogs; the latter are cats'. A comma between them may suffice, but I think I prefer a semi-colon as they are effectively two separate sentences rather than one merely being a subordinate clause.

  • Thanks! The first may be incorrect, but do colons always introduce lists? – Neil G Apr 25 '14 at 6:48
  • @WS2 Stick to your guns! You stated everything correctly; they are two independent clauses, but you cannot join two independent clauses with a comma (splice)! You were quite correct that he needed to use the semicolon to join the two independent thoughts when there is no conjunction. +WS2 – Apple Freejeans Apr 25 '14 at 18:31
  • @NeilG They can also be used in business letters, subsequent explanations, and short introductory phrases--none of which apply here. – Apple Freejeans Apr 25 '14 at 18:35

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