As a Spanish translator, I struggle with MANY Spanish sentences that include a preposition followed by a list of numbered (e.g.) activities. The lists can be long or short. An example would be:

The manual was redesigned to (i) include blah blah blah and (ii) exclude blah blah blah.

In the Spanish "to" is always followed by a colon, and as far as I can see other translators working for the same organization keep that colon in their translation. But shouldn't the colon be excluded after a preposition?

Also, would one include a comma between (i) and (ii) in the above sentence? I think not, but presumably if there were a (iii) then 2 Oxford commas would be appropriate?

Then, what if it were a much longer list, perhaps of even longer descriptions of activities? Would commas still be appropriate (assuming no commas in the list items)? Or should one switch to semicolons simply to make it clearer?


P.S. Here's another slightly more complex example:

This feedback provided the foundation for conducting an in-depth review of the modules, in which: (i) entirely new modules were added, such as one relating to technical quality management; (ii) the legal framework, governance, and environment module was eliminated and its questions redistributed across the other modules; and (iii) questions and conditions were adjusted in each module.

And another:

The purpose of this review was two-fold: (i) to make the questions clearer; and (ii) to ensure that all key project management functions are covered. (Semicolon, or comma?)

  • In general, the colon should not be used when it would divide a sentence. "The purpose was two-fold:" is OK because the lead-in is a complete sentence. "Provided the foundation in which:" is not OK, since the colon appears in the middle of a sentence. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '20 at 1:46
  • The question is complicated for me by the fact that you are not using separate lines for each point (ie: classic “bullet pointing”) which is where I expect to see this sort of colon. Your “more complex example” is definitely better presented with separate lines for each point. When points are presented on separate lines, I expect to see a colon before them but in modern styles the later semicolons are no longer used. A comma, or no punctuation at all, replaces the semicolon. When points are strung together the semicolon is often the only choice available to separate one point from the next. – Orbital Aussie Jan 18 '20 at 1:50
  • Thanks, Hot Licks, that's what I thought. Any perspective on my related questions? Orbital Aussie, agreed, however when translating I have to adhere to the original structure of the Spanish text :-(. Does create presentation issues, but there is no way around it. Are you saying in your final sentence that I should consistently use semicolons between the different numbered list elements (rather than commas, obviously unless the elements themselves contain commas), even if there is no initial colon? Thank you both! – Dri Jan 18 '20 at 2:09

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