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How to punctuate run-in/horizontal lists February 24, 2010

Filed under: Editing,Writing — sallyhanan @ 1:11 pm
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Why punctuate lists?
Most of the time lists are personal and don’t need punctuation, but when it comes to writing lists for publication, you need to make sure you have your commas and colons in the right places.

Some general things to remember
All lines in a list should be more or less the same—a list of words/ a list of sentences/ a list of single items, etc.
Short lists don’t need to be written vertically.
Lists don’t need numbers or letters.
If you use letters or numbers to list things horizontally, only begin your list with punctuation if the word before the list is a preposition (on, in, before, if, etc.) or a verb (action word).
Do your homework (a) as soon as possible, (b) with no distractions, and (c) on clean paper.

You’ll get no pocket money if you don’t write: (a) as soon as possible, (b) without distractions, and (c) on clean paper.

If you introduce the list with a clause, it should end with a colon before the list begins.
Here’s what you need to do your homework: (1) a quick start, (2) no distractions, and (3) clean paper.

Each item on a list should be separated by a comma, but if a comma is needed internally in one or more of the items listed, each item should be separated by a semicolon.
You need to begin your homework as soon as you get home; not let anything distract you, like the music; and write on clean paper.

I thought for a while about the women on my husband’s hottie list: that tall redhead; the blonde, the one who holds that airgun between her teeth; and the brunette with the braces; and I decided they have nothing on me because I am loved for who I am, not for what I represent.
I much prefer vertical lists, and I love to use bullet points even more—they make lists look cleaner and more professional. There are other punctuation rules for vertical lists, though, and I’ll get to those in another post.



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