1

I've looked all over but have not found this example.

Can one use a semicolon after a colon or em-dash (or similar doubling up combinations). Is it a matter of style or is there a fast rule?

e.g.:

  1. The quiet was interrupted by a clacking noise: a man was running down the street in his dress shoes; as he did, he repeatedly looked at his watch.

  2. The quiet was interrupted by a clacking noise—a man was running down the street in his dress shoes; as he did, he repeatedly looked at his watch.

  3. The quiet was interrupted by a clacking noise; a man was running down the street with three items: a book, a ball, and a bag.

These may not be the most elegant sentences as I'm just making them up now, and I know they can be rewritten, but is it acceptable according to respected writing style guides to "double up" punctuation like this?

  • 1
    Grammar is about the syntax and morphology of the spoken language only, not about punctuation or spelling or capitalization matters relevant only to writing technology and style. As such, it is often impossible to assign values of correct or incorrect to punctuational styling choices. Instead, common and uncommon, or even liked or disliked, may work better for these. – tchrist Jun 18 at 18:23
  • @tchrist thanks so much. I understand, and if it's a matter of style, that's good news, because I have been using them... but was wondering if in any case some combination would be explicitly grammatically incorrect. cheers. – romebot Jun 18 at 18:57
  • 2
    Hello, romebot. I assume your 'if it's a matter of style, that's good news, because I have been using them' that you think obeying punctuation 'rules' is more important than using reasonable style. And pushing 'rules' to the breaking point is OK. I'm sorry; I can't agree. Extending Orwell's Sixth Rule, we can say 'break any other rule rather than writing anything barbarous'. And we don't need to break 'rules' here. (1) 'The quiet was interrupted by a clacking noise – a man was running down the street in his dress shoes. As he did, he repeatedly looked at his watch.' works well, for example. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 18 at 19:05
  • Related: the dog's bollocks – Davo Jun 18 at 19:12
  • Answers: (a) yes, (b) "style", not "rule", (c) best to do your own research rather than ask here. Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Style Manual, Oxford Style Manual etc - many of these have previous editions available online. :-) – Chappo Jun 19 at 1:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.