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Semicolons and complex lists

Writing for Business

Which is correct?
An MRP system should satisfy three objectives: ensuring that materials and products are available for production and delivery; maintaining the lowest possible level of ___________ planning manufacturing activities, delivery schedules and purchasing activities.
a. inventory and
b. inventory; and

Answer: b

Explanation:
In a list of complex items, the semicolon helps clarity by clearly identifying the separate items in the list — that’s why it’s used instead of a comma between the items, as well as why it’s used along with the conjunction and before the last item. The general rule is to use a semicolon to separate list items if one of your items already contains a comma and to use one before the conjunction if the items are complex.

Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty offers more information about the uses of semicolons.

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