I'm writing a story where only certain people know something about my MC. I list the people like this:

Only my coaches, my best friend - Alicia, who’s also my cousin -, and her parents.

I add more info about my MC's best friend, and using commas would make it confusing and make it seem like the info is another list item, but using dashes doesn't look right because then I have this:


Is there any other solution or is using dashes the correct way to do it?

  • 2
    What about parentheses? Alternatively, you could drop the last comma as it's not technically required before the "and" at the end of a list of things (though not wrong, it's not required). Parentheses seem to solve your problem, though. – Patrick87 Sep 29 '14 at 22:33
  • @Patrick87 not wrong, not required: that is a matter of opinion and some controversy. Some will say it is required, others will say it is incorrect. Others will take a more flexible approach, as you seem to. – phoog Sep 30 '14 at 3:50

I would use parentheses rather than dashes:

Only my coaches, my best friend (Alicia, who's also my cousin), and her parents.

I don't think I've ever seen a comma immediately after a dash, but there's no problem with using it after a close parenthesis.

I might also take Alicia's name out of the parenthese:

Only my coaches, my best friend Alicia (who's also my cousin), and her parents.


Since I don't have enough reputation to comment, I would suggest a list:

  • Only my coaches;
  • My best friend;
  • Alicia, who's also my cousin; and
  • Her parents

List entries start with a capital, and end with a comma, unless any element contains other punctuation (the comma after Alicia's name). In that case, use semi-colons.
If you add more description to an element, the bullet format helps you to group relevant data in a single entry:

  • Colonel Mustard, in the bathroom, with a rocket-launcher.
  • Source: "How to write a Minute" {RAAF guidelines, 1980's}

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