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How would you punctuate this sentence:

"People who are tired, physically, mentally, or emotionally, need the energy that they can get from your magnetism."

Should I use a colon after "tired" and a semi-colon after "emotionally"? Or are commas sufficient?

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You could use an em dash. (Grammarist)

Em dashes set apart parenthetical phrases or clauses in a sentence. In this use, em dashes are similar to commas and parentheses, but there are subtle differences. For example, em dashes are used when a parenthetical remark contains an internal comma or would otherwise sound awkward if enclosed by commas.

People who are tired — physically, mentally, or emotionally — need the energy that they can get from your magnetism.

This is Unicode character point U+2014.

  • Beat me to it by a few seconds! – psosuna May 15 '18 at 18:05
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Consider using an em dash for this. An em dash should be limited to two per sentence, but it has a function that is very versatile and helps to break up the sentence visually and tactically.

For example:

People who are tired — physically, mentally, or emotionally — need the energy that they can get from your magnetism.

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    I upvoted yours either way. :) – pradyumnad May 15 '18 at 19:04
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Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with the sentence—however, it's awkward because it can be interpreted ambiguously. To avoid the issue, the three types of tiredness need to be offset from the rest of the sentence.

Em dashes can certainly be used, but so can parentheses:

People who are tired (physically, mentally, or emotionally) need the energy that they can get from your magnetism.

It's mostly a matter of style which method you prefer.


Note that if you do want to use a colon, the sentence would need to be rephrased:

People who need the energy that they can get from your magnetism are those who get tired: physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Or, if you want to use a semicolon:

"People get tired—physically, mentally, or emotionally; they need the energy that they can get from your magnetism."

Here, I used an em dash because the first part of the sentence still had a problem with the awkward use of commas.

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