Keep in mind that neither "A" nor "B" will change; only "C".
Keep in mind that neither "A" will change nor "B"; only "C".
Keep in mind that "C" will change ; but neither "A" nor "B" will.
Keep in mind that "C" will change ; but "A" and"B" will not.

What is the correct way? Further suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks.

  • 3
    There’s more than one correct way to say something. All four of yours are perfectly fine, though I’d personally go for a simple comma before “but”, rather than a semicolon. You could also have said, “Keep in mind that both A and B will change, but C will not” and variations thereof. (If you’re trying to make line breaks without the paragraph spacing, just add two spaces at the end of the line and then make a line break, like I have done in my edit of your question here.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 11 '14 at 16:03
  • All of these are correct. There are other variations possible. The last one is the most direct, but they are all pretty clear. – Joel Brown Nov 11 '14 at 16:03
  • 2
    What's with all these semicolons? Why not simply "...only C changes, not A or B"? I think a semicolon followed by but looks silly. – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '14 at 16:19
  • Honestly, I didn't give much consideration to the semicolon. Sure, a comma seems like a better choice. Thanks. – bitted Nov 11 '14 at 18:02
  • They're all grammatical, but the second one seems clumsy (I'd say , nor will "B"). Also, the last two seem to be missing only, but that might be redundant if these are the only choices. – Barmar Nov 11 '14 at 19:14

Keep in mind that neither A nor B will change--only C.

You only use semicolons to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction. For example, the following sentences are both correct and mean the same thing:

  • I wanted to play, so I put on my shoes.
  • I wanted to play; I put on my shoes.

Because "only C" cannot be treated as an independent clause (it shares a verb with the first independent clause and thus belongs to the first independent clause), you cannot separate it with a conjunction. Therefore, you also cannot separate it with a semicolon.

A dash is a better choice than a comma here, though, because you cannot move the phrase "only C" to a different part of the clause to make it flow better. For example, both of these sentences are wrong:

  • Keep in mind that only C will change, neither A nor B.
  • Keep in mind that neither A nor B will change, only C.

The comma doesn't do enough work because the clause needs to be completely interrupted and then resumed. Also, you won't find the above examples described among valid uses of the comma.


My recommendation is that you should focus on the clarity of your message, and choosing the appropriate statement based on your audience and the context. Is it most important to the audience that C is changing? Or is it most important that A and B are not changing? I'd choose the sentence that places the most important clause first.

For example, if you are about to patch a web site and are writing a note to your support team, you might want to emphasize stability, and so announce that the important systems A and B are not changing at this time. Or if you are adding new functions to the site and want the business people to be excited, announce that C is changing soon, although A and B are not.

Finally, context matters. If the previous sentences already discuss C's changing, your statement might have more impact if you simply state "A and B are not changing." If the previous sentences discuss the stability of A and B, you might state "C is the only change."

  • Thank you for your answer. I agree that clarity and context are most important (and I have been arguing a lot in their favour) but in the context of this specific question I was more interested in what is considered grammatically correct. – bitted Feb 22 '15 at 0:18

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