How would you punctuate the sentence below? Is it okay the way it is? I've never seen a sentence that introduced more than one list with a colon. I considered just taking out the colons. I also considered replacing them with commas. I haven't been able to find a clear answer in my research.

Here is the sentence:

We dedicate this work to our spouses: Glenda, Sue, and June; and to our children: Thomas and Reese; Oliver and Sarah; James, Hannah, and Finn.

  • We dedicate this work to our spouses – Glenda, Sue, and June, and to our children – Thomas & Reese, Oliver & Sarah, James, Hannah, and Finn. Though I'd restructure. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 21 at 19:53
  • I think the colons are only confusing the issue. It removes the appositives from that status. Once you're using semicolons to establish logical groupings, you only need to use commas ("... and to our children, Thomas and Reese" etc.). – Robusto Mar 21 at 19:54

I think most copy editors would agree that there are more than one solution to this. To my eyes, the semi-colons and colon bog it down. I'd simplify:

We dedicate this work to our spouses Glenda, Sue, and June and to our children Thomas and Reese, Oliver and Sarah, and James, Hannah, and Finn.

There is an inherent problem with this solution: Without commas after spouses or children, a reader might infer that there are other, unnamed wives and children. And with commas there, it would sound like the three women and seven others are in addition to the wives and offspring.

But in this situation, less clutter means more clarity, and I think the reader will trust that none of the three authors is a bigamist.

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