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Moth-like, the people buzzed about: walking, driving, directing— each to their own light.

I'm not sure whether each comma, colon, dash and hyphen are used correctly here. Please help!

Also, this is my first question here (or at least, I think so— I have the memory of a goldfish with Alzheimer's) so please be gentle!

  • Just use matching punctuation to surround the parenthetical list. – Lawrence Aug 8 '18 at 23:27
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"Moth-like, the people buzzed about, walking, driving, directing, each to their own light."

the last em dash (-) is not really appropriate, as that piece of data is very much a continuation of the last few pieces of data (i.e., the metaphor of their movement). The comma here actually is not needed grammatically, I think, but I added it for the natural pause (that you marked with the em dash).

The colon also feels out of place, though not completely off. It cannot be a semicolon, as the second clause is not an independent one... And a comma would not suffice here, not would a full stop.

The first comma is of course to accomma(heeeey)date the irregular sentence structure.

It's a tough one. I'm open to suggestions.

EDIT: Add Punctuation Guide (informal)

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"Moth-like, the people buzzed about—walking, driving, directing, each to their own light."

I like the previous answer; this is just another option.

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An alternative would be to bring the final part of the sentence to the start so that it not only loses some of the awkwardness after the list items but emphasizes the poetic nature of moth-like:

Moth-like, each to their own light, the people buzzed about: walking, driving, and directing.

I added and before the final list item for the sake of grammar. However, in fiction, it could be left out for stylistic reasons.

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