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I am trying to edit an academic paper, with a complex sentence which includes an interpolation within em dashes. The interpolation terminates with a reference in brackets, and is also the first item in a list of three. The existing punctuation at the end of the interpolation is as follows:

Given the noticeable cultural differences between xxxs and yyys in religion — most xxxs are aaas (Markoglou et al. 2006), while most yyys are Christians (Mylo et al. 2006) —, in dress code, and social mores, it was suggested that xxxs in Nomansland would choose integration and separation over assimilation and marginalization.

Should I omit the comma or the em dash? Or put the whole interpolation in brackets instead of em dashes, which would then end in a double bracket and comma?

Any guidance welcome!

  • This needs more context. We need the whole sentence. Change it to something fictitious if it's necessary to do that, keeping the structure the same, but the snippet in the question is unintelligible. – Andrew Leach Apr 7 '17 at 12:28
  • I'm not sure it's meaningful for a section of text to be used simultaneously as both an "interpolation" and an item in a list. – FumbleFingers Apr 7 '17 at 12:35
  • Sorry, more context! "Given the noticeable cultural differences between xxxs and yyys in religion - most xxxs are aaas (Markoglou et al. 2006), while most yyys are Christians (Mylo et al. 2006) -, in dress code, and social mores, it was suggested that xxxs in Nomansland would choose integration and separation over assimilation and marginalization." – Jill Marrington Apr 7 '17 at 12:55
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The choice is between whether to omit the dash and retain the comma (as separating list elements) or to omit the comma and retain the dash (indicating a parenthetical insertion). Both have merits, but I would argue that they do not equally help interpretation.

  1. Treating each list element is a separate entity, the "interpolation" isn't really an interpolation — it's simply a comment at the end of a list element. [Did you see what I did there?] That means that you can/must omit the comma before while; it's not needed there anyway.

    Given the noticeable cultural differences between xxxs and yyys in religion — most xxxs are aaas (Markoglou et al. 2006) while most yyys are Christians (Mylo et al. 2006), in dress code, and social mores, it was suggested that xxxs in Nomansland would choose integration and separation over assimilation and marginalization.

  2. If we make the interpolated comment actually an interpolation, I believe the sentence reads better, and you can retain the comma before while which helps that comparison; but it's not immediately clear that "in religion" is a list element.

    Given the noticeable cultural differences between xxxs and yyys in religion — most xxxs are aaas (Markoglou et al. 2006), while most yyys are Christians (Mylo et al. 2006) — in dress code, and social mores, it was suggested that xxxs in Nomansland would choose integration and separation over assimilation and marginalization.

Thus, of the two options, the latter might perhaps be preferred.

However, the sentence is complicated by that parenthetical comment: the list would be more easily assimilated with a third option of a footnote. All the comment does is present citations to support the assertion of "noticeable cultural differences", and this is a reasonable use of a footnote. The author could even add footnotes 2 and 3 in a similar manner, to provide evidence for the claimed differentiation in dress code and social mores — although these could conceivably follow from the religion which is professed.

Given the noticeable cultural differences between xxxs and yyys in religion¹, in dress code, and social mores, it was suggested that xxxs in Nomansland would choose integration and separation over assimilation and marginalization.

¹ Most xxxs are aaas (Markoglou et al. 2006), while most yyys are Christians (Mylo et al. 2006).

  • Thank you, Andrew, the depth and scope of your answer is much appreciated, as is the speed of your responses. I shall use this resource again! – Jill Marrington Apr 7 '17 at 15:18

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