Which of these sentences is written correctly?

  1. Angela has three brothers, Mark, Adam, and Ryan.
  2. Angela has three brothers: Mark, Adam, and Ryan.
  3. Angela has three brothers Mark, Adam, and Ryan

3 Answers 3


Angela has three brothers: Mark, Adam, and Ryan.

That's the one to go with.

N.B. This is called the syntactical-descriptive function of the colon: it "introduces a description—in particular, makes explicit the elements of a set" (Wikipedia)

  • 2
    The example with no punctuation is horrible by the way. :D
    – Alenanno
    Apr 13, 2011 at 17:19
  • The comma before the and really bothers me :|
    – mplungjan
    Apr 13, 2011 at 17:21
  • 3
    @mplungian: That's another issue. But while the "Oxford comma" may bother you, it's at least a negotiable stylistic point.
    – Robusto
    Apr 13, 2011 at 17:25
  • 1
    I have it on good authority that the "Oxford comma" didn't even go to college.
    – The Raven
    Apr 13, 2011 at 17:50
  • 4
    Robusto's answer is correct (of course), but just to add another possibility: you could use a dash, and write Angela has three brothers—Mark, Adam and Ryan.
    – psmears
    Apr 13, 2011 at 18:10

Angela has three brothers: Mark, Adam, and Ryan.

  • Welcome to EL&U. Please edit your answer to explain why it is right and to provide at least one reliable citation. Thanks.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 29, 2013 at 18:06

In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last. With only a few exceptions, the serial comma clarifies any ambiguity when the meaning is not as simple as the example above. Clarity ought to be the objective in writing!