I just read that you should use a semicolon for a list where the list items contain commas. However, my sentence doesn't have a list as the main "list" only two items. Or do two items already count as a list?

My question: Is it ok (and understandable) to write:

These include physical techniques, such as phystechnique1, phystechnique2 and phystechnique3; and chemical techniques, such as chemtechnique1 or chemtechnique2.

  • It's not a cardinal sin. I'd prefer << These include physical techniques, such as phystechnique 1, phystechnique 2, & phystechnique 3, and chemical techniques, such as chemtechnique 1 & chemtechnique 2. >> However, given a free rein, I'd use bullet points every time here. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 28 '18 at 0:02

That is precisely the type of sentence I would make an optional choice to use semicolon(s). Lists or not does not matter. They may be used to show major divisions, where commas are usually used, when commas are required within the different divisions. It's just a way to be kinder to your readers by giving them an extra visual clue to help them understand your meaning once a sentence gets lengthy and complicated.

  • Thanks, I thought it was easier to distinguish with a semicolon. I've only recently been learning that I should have been using semicolons in a lot of sentence types instead of commas. – John Jan 28 '18 at 0:40
  • You said, "I should have been using semicolons in a lot of sentence types instead of commas." That is almost certainly something quite different. It is pretty much mandatory to use semicolons to join independent clauses and no conjunction. The ideal solution should not be learning to spot when you've done that and insert the semicolon. It would be becoming comfortable with how to use commas and/or conjunctions to validly join clauses - leaving only rare instances when you choose a semicolon to emphasise two ideas are very closely linked. – Ross Murray Jan 28 '18 at 7:24
  • Also, note that the use of a semicolon in your example sentence is optional. It is not wrong to use a comma instead of that one. The primary use of semicolons is joining independent clauses, and those are not optional. – Ross Murray Jan 28 '18 at 7:30

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