Is this sentence punctuated correctly?

Not only am I a wife, but a mother; not only a daughter, but a sister; not only a coworker, but a friend.

  • 2
    It looks fine to me (apart from the missing space after "wife,"). My circumstances would preclude me from saying it, but putting that aside I personally think it would flow better starting with "I am not only...". OP's stylistic inversion just seems a bit much on top of the three-point pairings that follow. – FumbleFingers Nov 4 '11 at 22:47
  • @FumbleFingers I am laughing! Clearly, great minds think alike ;#) I entered an answer with the same content as your comment, simultaneously! But I agree with you, that technically the sentence is acceptable with semi-colons. (My circumstances don't quite as comprehensively preclude me from saying it, but I know what you mean). – Ellie Kesselman Nov 4 '11 at 22:53

Consider a slight re-wording (and punctuation) of the sentence as follows:

I am not only a wife but a mother, not only a daughter but a sister, not only a coworker but a friend.

I don't quite understand the logic of the sentence. That is probably irrelevant, as it isn't what you asked about!

  • 1
    Yup. With punctuation, the general rule is less is better, so long as it's still easy to read. – FumbleFingers Nov 5 '11 at 3:05

No. However, the problem doesn't originate with the semicolons but with the commas. I see what you're trying to do, though. You have a series of items with their own commas, so you're using semicolons to separate them. This would be correct except the items here don't need commas.

The correct punctuation is as follows, along with the missing words. I also had to revise the first few words to solve a parallelism problem.

I am not only a wife but also a mother, not only a daughter but also a sister, not only a coworker but also a friend.

Why no commas? "Not only...but also" is a correlative pair. Correlative pairs aren't divided with commas. See "Commas with But Also": http://zencomma.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/comma-with-but-also/ for more information about correlative pairs.

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    I think a comma is safe in “not only…but also” as a stylistic choice. After all, if you speak a phrase with a pause, then you probably ought to punctuate it accordingly, provided of course that there’s a punctuation mark for what you want to convey. – Jon Purdy Nov 5 '11 at 2:31

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