3 More Sentences with Unnecessary Semicolons

By Mark Nichol

1. Some new entrants probably need to have a deeper focus on security and privacy than they have; not least because it is only a matter of time before they, too, are regulated more closely.

A semicolon is required to separate the two halves of a sentence only when both clauses are independent, but the second clause is dependent—it doesn’t have a subject, such as in “This is because it is . . . .”: “Some new entrants probably need to have a deeper focus on security and privacy than they have, not least because it is only a matter of time before they, too, are regulated more closely.

2. Infrastructure can include the following: a common risk language and other frameworks; knowledge sharing to identify best practices; common training; and integration of risk responses with business plans.

In this sentence, the four items are simple, in that none of them are themselves complicated by internal punctuation, so a series of commas is sufficient to structure the organization of the list: “Infrastructure can include the following: a common risk language and other frameworks, knowledge sharing to identify best practices, common training, and integration of risk responses with business plans.”

3. We can assist with the design and implementation of the mortgage-servicing requirements by providing project-management support and structure; documenting processes and identifying opportunities to address inefficiencies; and developing new and/or enhancing existing policies, procedures, monitoring programs, key metrics, and training.

In this sentence, the final list item (“beginning with “and developing”) has internal punctuation, which would normally signal the need for more robust punctuation between the items. However, because each item begins with a distinct verb, the structure of the sentence is clear, so commas suffice to separate them: “We can assist with the design and implementation of the mortgage-servicing requirements by providing project-management support and structure, documenting processes and identifying opportunities to address inefficiencies, and developing new and/or enhancing existing policies, procedures, monitoring programs, key metrics, and training.” (It also helps that the complex item is the last one in the sentence.)

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1 Response to “3 More Sentences with Unnecessary Semicolons”

  • thebluebird11

    @Mark: The last part of your last example (starting with “and developing…”) is confusing, because the word “monitoring” can be misunderstood to be another verb, following “developing” and “enhancing.” I had to re-read that part of the sentence a couple of times and I don’t like how it’s structured. Maybe it would have been less confusing if the writer had put “monitoring programs” at the end of that list, but a little care might be needed to position it so that it doesn’t bump up against “training” and make it sound as if there are training-and-monitoring-programs or whatever. This is definitely a case for a serial comma, if nothing else.

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