Which of the following is the most acceptable construction in formal written English:

  1. Think of words like sin, din, bin...the list goes on.
  2. Think of words like sin, din, bin, the list goes on.
  3. Think of words like sin, din, bin; the list goes on.

Also, should one use a comma before or after (if at all) "like" in this case?

P.S. If at all the flavor of English makes any difference, I am looking for American English.

  • 2
    I would place a colon after like because you're introducing a list of words. But my punctuation skills have never been impressive, hence I leave this comment. – Mari-Lou A Nov 10 '14 at 12:17
  • 1
    Are you actually asking the reader to think of words that rhyme with IN or are you asking them to merely think about such words? Think about words like: sin, din, bin...etc; the list goes on. – Joe Dark Nov 10 '14 at 12:27
  • @Joe, would the purpose affect the grammar in this example? What would be the difference between the two examples? – TheLearner Nov 10 '14 at 12:29
  • @AmitSchandillia Think of a number between 1 and 10. Think about the numbers between 1 and 10. Do you see the difference now? – Joe Dark Nov 10 '14 at 12:42
  • Let me rephrase the difference. I meant to ask how does the difference in meaning affect punctuation in THIS context? – TheLearner Nov 10 '14 at 12:43

What you describe is the rhetorical figure known as anacoluthon (you can look it up on Sylvae Rhetoricae), which is the process of "beginning a sentence in a way that implies a certain logical resolution, but concluding it differently than the grammar leads one to expect."

You begin by enumerating items in a list, but then break off to conclude, essentially, that the list is too long to finish here and you just want to end the sentence. As such you would be better off using an em dash (—) to set off the interruption:

Think of words like sin, din, bin—the list goes on.

  • Thanks for the concise explanation. Would you also place a comma or colon anywhere near (before or after) "like"? – TheLearner Nov 10 '14 at 12:28
  • 2
    No. The only other punctuation besides the em dash should be a comma after each enumerated item except the last. – Robusto Nov 10 '14 at 12:30

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