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I'm proofreading a colleagues work, and ran across a sentence which contains two examples with clarifications. I do not believe this should be broken out into two sentences.

The original (nouns changed to protect the innocent):

In this way, all Jabberwockies have a "foo", meaning the bar associated with that foo, and a "fizz", meaning the buzz of where the Jabberwocky is.

I believe this would benefit from an em-dash, but the comma between the two "parts" of this sentence seem off:

In this way, all Jabberwockies have a "foo" - meaning the bar associated with that foo, and a "fizz" - meaning the buzz of where the Jabberwocky is.

Is this second version the best way to portray the sentence?

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  • In a technical context, I would unhesitatingly put both those "clarifying clauses" in brackets. Jun 26, 2014 at 13:37
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    Informally, I'd put them in parentheses.
    – keshlam
    Jun 26, 2014 at 14:55
  • @FumbleFingers Why brackets and not parenthesis? Jun 26, 2014 at 14:55
  • @ Erik: Same as most people, I call (these things) brackets. Obviously the round ones are often called parentheses in a grammar/orthography context, but that term can also be applied to the text contained within the delimiters (which delimiters might be dashes, commas, etc.), so I was trying to avoid potential confusion. (Which didn't work for you or keshlam, obviously! :) Jun 26, 2014 at 15:06

1 Answer 1

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I doubt there's one definite "best" method for sentences like this. But I'd recommend using parentheses to minimize ambiguity and give each clause a clear beginning and end. (In your original revision, it could be a little difficult to keep track of which clause references which example.)

In this way, all Jabberwockies have a "foo" (meaning the bar associated with that foo) and a "fizz" (the buzz at the Jabberwocky's location).

By placing the brackets directly after each word in quotations, it should be immediately clear between information describing "Foo" and information describing "Fizz".


If all else fails, you can always rearrange the structure into clause-clause-example-example format:

In this way, all Jabberwockies have a "foo" and a "fizz" - where "foo" means the person pitied by Mr. T, and "fizz" is in reference to the Jabberwocky's favorite beverage.

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