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Semi colon Options
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 3:57:46 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 1/16/2011
Posts: 369
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Dear Forum Members.
I am confused that why the semicolon is used after Oregon, Washington and Texas in the first sentence of the two and not using the same in the second sentence.

“In less than 10 years, I have lived in Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Paris, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Washington, D.C.” (correct)
“In less than 10 years, I have lived in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, Paris, Texas, Denver, Colorado , and Washington, D.C.” (incorrect)


A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 5:24:38 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 6/15/2011
Posts: 703
Neurons: 59,655
Hi Dubai

Have a look at the definition for semicolons in TFD (The Farlex Grammar Book):

Semicolons ( ; ) are used for two main purposes: to separate lengthy or complex items within a list and to connect independent clauses. They are often described as being more powerful than commas, while not quite as a strong as periods (full stops).

Edit: Each place that the writer has lived consists of the name of a town and state in the USA (except Washington, DC which is the capital of the USA and not an actual state, as I understand it), so the pause between the town and state is shorter than that between each place and the next.

Edit2: Just seen that your question comes from today's Daily Grammar Lesson. The first edit above should explain it - it's a list of items that already contain commas.

I would live all my life in nonchalance and insouciance, Were it not for making a living, which is rather a nouciance. Ogden Nash
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2017 6:47:47 AM

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Joined: 7/8/2010
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Just to emphasise Nancy's point from a foreigner's perspective::

It is an almost uniquely American style to include a comma in a place name
Seattle, Washington
Denver, Colorado
Birmingham, Alabama
Paris, Texas
It is necessary because of the way names arose in immigrant America
Portland, Maine
Portland, Oregon

And they use it to categorise 'abroad' as well
Paris, France
Dubai, UAE
Beijing, China

So, each item in the list already has a comma in the name. To make a list with commas wouldn't work in that particular situation. It would not be a useful separator to have each word treated equally. You need a stronger separator between each place name - semi colons.

A British speaker would just make a list of places unless they had to specify 'which' one'. Even if they had to specify which, they would probably explain:
I have lived in Birmingham, Leeds, Beijing, New York in Lincolnshire, and Washington in Tyne and Wear.

If you were describing places in America you would use the American system for those places, even as a British speaker.
I have lived in London; Portland, Oregon; Beijing; Birmingham; Birmingham, Alabama; Paris; Paris, Texas; Frankfurt (Oder); Frankfurt-am-Main; etc, etc.
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