I have a question regarding punctuation. Please consider the following sentence:

In 2010, he became CEO of the company [punctuation?] a position he still holds today.

I'm wondering which punctuation is correct/acceptable/incorrect and why:

  • Comma?

In 2010, he became CEO of the company, a position he still holds today.

  • Semicolon?

In 2010, he became CEO of the company; a position he still holds today.

  • Parentheses?

In 2010, he became CEO of the company (a position he still holds today).

  • Em dash?

In 2010, he became CEO of the company — a position he still holds today.

Thank you.

  • The semicolon is incorrect. The comma is invariably correct in this instance. The other punctuation may be acceptable informally or as a matter of preferred style. – Rob_Ster Nov 26 '17 at 16:21
  • @Rob_Ster Thank you. Could you explain why the comma is correct but the semicolon incorrect. Or could you tell me which keywords I should use to find more information about this specific type of sentence structure. I've come across articles on participial phrases at the end of sentences (quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/…), but despite some similarities, they're not exactly the same thing. Thank you – Baalinooo Nov 26 '17 at 16:27
  • Many editors view semicolons as pretentious blots to be avoided in effective writing. If you must use semicolons, use them formally to separate independent clauses, or to divide long and complicated elements in a series. Any other use - such as marking an appositive phrase (e.g., "...CEO of the company; a position...") is incorrect. Full stop. Participial phrases are a completely different topic; I don't see how it relates to your original posting. – Rob_Ster Nov 26 '17 at 17:04

I'm going to take a stab at providing documentation for Rob's comment (which I agree with).

  1. A comma is sometimes used to indicate the omission of one or more words:

    July will be devoted to writing; August, to revision.


Without the omission, your sentence would be

In 2010, he became CEO of the company [optional comma] which is a position he still holds today.

By omitting the part in bold, the comma becomes required by the above-cited Rule 15.

In 2010, he became CEO of the company, a position he still holds today.

You can use a dash in place of the comma, but in this sentence, I wouldn't.


They are all acceptable as far as I know, except for the semicolon which is antiquated. Personally I would probably choose the dash or the parentheses. The colon I think is another option which has fallen out of use (I am talking out of experience here, as I am quite sure I have come across uses of semicolons and colons in my readings of older texts, although I would be hard put to cite an example as it may have been as long as thirty or fourty years ago. I would say it is fairly common in older literature).

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protected by tchrist Nov 26 '17 at 19:04

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