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What punctuation should I use?

Which is correct?

What kind of fruits - apples, oranges or bananas, do you like?

What kind of fruits - apples, oranges or bananas - do you like?

What kind of fruits, apples, oranges or bananas, do you like?

I understand that colons are used for lists, but what if the sentence does not end after the list:

e.g. The fruits that I like: apples, oranges and bananas, aren't seasonal. 

Using a colon there doesn't sound right to me, so is the dash the only substitute? I don't feel like a comma either except with the following:

The fruits that I like, including apples, oranges and bananas, aren't seasonal. 

or with anything that functions similarly to "including", like "for example".

8 Answers

  • ?
    Lv 6
    2 months ago

    When a parenthetical element is included at the end of a larger sentence, the terminal punctuation for the larger sentence goes outside the closing parenthesis. When a parenthetical sentence exists on its own, the terminal punctuation goes inside the closing parenthesis.

  • RP
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    I'd avoid any issue with something like Do you like apples, oranges, or bananas.

  • 2 months ago

    I would use parentheses around the list of fruits.  It is a very classical example of a parenthetical phrase, after all.  The usual alternative (nesting between commas) would not be favored because the nested phrase is a list with commas, and that would cause confusion concerning what is within the parenthetical phrase portion of the sentence.  Which role is this comma serving, end of the inserted phrase or a part of the list? So, avoid that problem and use parentheses for the parenthetical phrase.

    Your second example, the duplicate use of hyphens, serves the very same purpose and is a fine alternative.

  • 2 months ago

    You got a lot of opinions in the answers. This is my opinion.

    "What kind of fruits--apples, oranges or bananas--do you like?"

    Use a double hyphen, to get a dash, if it's not on your keyboard. The shorter en-dash, is used to mark ranges of something (temperature). Not set off a list.

    Source(s): Native American English speaker, for 68 years.
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  • ?
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    The em-dash or en-dash is correct. Whatever you use before the list, use the same thing after it. That sets it off from the rest of the sentence. 

  • User
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Rule- Do not use a colon after an incomplete statement

    - Exception: preceding a quote

    Example of exception:

    - Bob said: "I'm tired."


    - Lists are NOT always preceded by a colon.

    First: the sentence is very poorly arranged

    as well as being poorly worded.

    I don't know if you've been given this sentence as an assignment

    - if you have, shame on the teacher!

    but if you're allowed to make your own sentence

    it ought to read more like this:

    - Which of the following fruits do you like: apples, oranges and bananas?


    - Of the fruits apples, oranges and bananas, which do you like?

    To see a simpler example of a list that should NOT have a colon:

    - I bought eggs, milk and butter.

    (no colon because of the rule that I mentioned in the beginning)

    So: even a list at the end of a sentence is NOT necessarily preceded by a colon

    and a list in the middle of a sentence (or independent clause) SHOULD NOT be preceded by a colon.

    IF you are required to correct the sentence that you have given us

    then dashes are appropriate:

    - What kind of fruits - apples, oranges or bananas - do you like?

    but that remains a very awkward and poorly-worded sentence.


    the main sentence

    - What fruits do you like?

    does not indicate any limit to the variety of fruits. The only thing that does indicate such a limit is the awkwardly-inserted list. You'll see in my examples that the wording of the sentence clearly limits the variety even before you are given the list of fruits. This makes the sentence much more easily read, much more easily understood, etc.


    not needing weird punctuation.

    A final note: "and" is more appropriate than "or".

    - "apples, oranges and bananas" - when one or more choices is a possibility

    - "apples, oranges or bananas" - when only one choice is possible

  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    Use an em dash (—) or en dash (–), not a hyphen (-). If you don't have an em dash or en dash available, use a double hyphen (--).


    What kinds of fruits — apples, oranges or bananas — do you like?

    What kinds of fruits – apples, oranges or bananas – do you like?

    What kinds of fruits -- apples, oranges or bananas -- do you like?


  • Anonymous
    2 months ago

    What kind of fruits - apples, oranges or bananas - do you like?

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