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I have a list of categories which are themselves also lists. I wrote the sentence like so:

These paradigms are grouped into three categories: wisdom consisting of: right view and right thought; ethical conduct composed of: right speech, right action, and right livelihood; and mental discipline containing: right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Am I formatting this correctly or how should I go about it?

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You could possibly use brackets like so:

These paradigms are grouped into three categories: wisdom (consisting of right view and right thought); ethical conduct composed of (right speech, right action, and right livelihood)...

This is probably how I would go about it.

Or, you can use dashes:

These paradigms are grouped into three categories: wisdom - consisting of right view and right thought; ethical conduct - composed of right speech, right action, and right livelihood...

  • but aren't parenthesis used when the information is extraneous to the meaning of the sentence? – Stephen Apr 14 '16 at 4:47
  • @Stephen Not always. But you could replace the brackets with dashes. – Dog Lover Apr 14 '16 at 5:00
  • @doglover I prefer the dashes myself, but that's my personal opinion. Do you have a source for this to include in your answer (e.g. some kind of style guide)? – Jascol Apr 14 '16 at 10:31
  • @Jascol Unfortunately not, but I do notice similar sorts of constructions in books. – Dog Lover Apr 14 '16 at 21:32
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I would arrange the sentence like so:

These paradigms are grouped into three categories:

  • Wisdom consisting of: right view and right thought.

  • Ethical conduct composed of: right speech, right action, and right
    livelihood; and

  • Mental discipline containing: right effort, right mindfulness, and
    right concentration.

If you can't use bullet-points a single dash looks just as good if not better.

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Or, why not use full sentences?

These paradigms are grouped into three categories. Wisdom consists of right view and right thought. Ethical conduct is composed of right speech, right action, and right livelihood. Lastly, Mental discipline contains right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

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