I put below a text I found in a written reply I came across:

"...in the Audit Report, it is stated that we did not rebut the Draft Audit Report (DAR). The actual fact is otherwise: we had prepared a written submission against the DAR; when we went to submit the same to Sales Tax Office, the Receiving Clerk, before receiving the written representation, asked us to get an initial of Mr. Dharmendra Verma on the written representation in compliance with the practice prevalent in that office; when we requested Mr. Verma to put the initial, he kept the written representation with himself and asked us to visit him on a later date; we paid several visits to him on the later dates as, each time we visited him on a later date, he asked us to visit him on a still later date; he has not yet put the initial and the written representation is still laying with him. So, it is not true that we did not rebut the DAR."

In the text quoted above, the writer, in order to introduce a story, first puts an introductory sentence as follows:

"The actual fact is otherwise:"

and then unfolds the story in five sentences that follow the introductory sentence. After the introductory sentence is written, the story that the writer seeks to introduce gets initiated, but remains incomplete until all the five following sentences that unfold the story are written. It is perhaps for this reason that the writer first punctuates the introductory sentence with a colon (:) and then punctuates all intermediate sentences with a semicolon (;) before he punctuates the final sentence closing the story with a full stop (.).

I do not know if this rule of punctuation is okay. Can anybody shed some light?

In the instant text, the story consisted of just five sentences, so the punctuation pattern (first a colon, then one or more semicolons and, finally, a full stop) was workable. In case a story is lengthier, say consisting of twenty sentences or thirty, the reader, by the time he finishes the story, would forget the context that he was in when he started reading the story. Cannot in that case the writer resort to put the entire story in a separate paragraph with usual punctuation and no need to punctuate as aforesaid?

  • A good logical answer is needed Mar 15, 2016 at 17:41
  • Subordinating a string of details under a lead-in sentence (or clause) that ends in a semicolon is not technically wrong, although WS2's suggested alternative approach is easier to read and makes its case more forcefully. I also strongly endorse his use of facts in place of fact in the lead-in. More than one fact supports the argument that the Audit Report's conclusion was incorrect, and the lead-in prefaces an enumeration of them. This, I think, is a stronger use of fact/facts than is achieved by pointing the word backward as a contradiction of the Audit Report's nonfactual conclusion.
    – Sven Yargs
    Mar 15, 2016 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


I certainly wouldn't ever punctuate in that way nor, I should hope would I ever write in such a tortuous manner.

It either needs to be bullet-pointed, or else written as a piece of prose, with separate sentences for each item. And, as prose, it requires linking syntax.

My suggestion would be something like the following. I have also eliminated the excessive verbosity. The end result I would suggest is far simpler and more easily read.

The facts are otherwise. To begin with we prepared a written submission against the DAR, but when we went to submit it to the Sales Tax Office, the Receiving Clerk, asked us to get it initialled by Mr. Dharmendra Verma, in compliance with the usual practice.

However, when we asked Mr. Verma for his initials, he kept the written representation and asked us to visit him at a later date. We have made several visits but each time he has asked us to come on a still later date.

He has never initialled the document, and it is still in his possession.

Hence it is not true that we failed to rebut the DAR.

  • What specifically do you find especially tortuous about the passage (I myself only found comprehending the passage a bit difficult because of continued repetition of "written representation"); and what do you find wrong with the usage of semicolons in the passage? May 7, 2020 at 22:06
  • @HeWhoMustBeNamed It probably seemed to me (when I wrote this answer, more than four years ago) that there was plenty enough between each semi-colon to constitute a sentence. Comprehension is enhanced by short concise thoughts. And it also makes it easier to break it down into paragraphs. So that instead of being faced by a wall of print, the reader sees some fresh air between each topic - somewhat analogous to using bullet points.
    – WS2
    May 7, 2020 at 22:50

The simple answer is: punctuation is a style issue not a grammar issue. Typesetting is a specialty form of editing to improve readers' comprehension. Your passage is awful; it is an affront to my eyes. My brain fuzzed it out before I finished reading it, twice.

Style guides differ, but here's what The Chicago Manual of Style has to say about colon punctuation:

6.59 The colon should generally convey the sense of "as follows."

6.61 When The colon is used within a sentence ... the first word following the colon is lowercase unless it is a proper noun. When a colon introduces two or more sentences ... when it introduces a speech in dialogue or as an extract ... or when it introduces a direct question, the first word following it is capitalized.

Using semicolons in your passage seems almost specifically designed to maintain lowercase; although, I cannot think of a sane reason why this would be a priority.

The punctuation is correct, just ridiculous in a technical setting.

  • 1
    The writer probably did not realize that you were allowed to use capital letters after a colon. Mar 21, 2016 at 15:19
  • "Your passage is awful; it is an affront to my eyes. My brain fuzzed it out before I finished reading it, twice." -- What do you find wrong about the passage? Is it just the punctuation, or some other things too? (I myself only found the passage a bit hard to comprehend, because of the continual use of "written representation".) May 7, 2020 at 22:00
  • @PeterShor But that depends on the particular style guide that one is following, right? What do you find wrong about the semicolons here? May 7, 2020 at 22:03

What to do when a principal sentence is followed by two or more subordinate sentences in the same paragraph? Consider separating the paragraph into at least two paragraphs.

The first sentence could be the topic sentence with no example or subsidiary sentence. In a future revision, this paragraph might, or might not, be edited to include specific information that supports the topic sentence.

The second paragraph could have its own topic sentence and supporting sentences, such as WS2 provided.

  • 1
    Probably principal sentence.
    – deadrat
    Mar 17, 2016 at 4:03

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