Eroica’s Erotica, Episode 8: Lists

Pardon me, for this blog post contains sexually explicit examples or content. If you are under the age of 18 or just uncomfortable with sexually explicit material, you may want to check out one of these sites about grammar and writing instead.

Lists in running text need to have parallel construction, both grammatically and conceptually.

I felt light-headed, aroused, and my genitals were engorged.

Let’s look at the three items in this list:

  • felt light-headed
  • felt aroused
  • my genitals were engorged.

It’s pretty obvious which one doesn’t belong, right?  You can’t make a list like this and have that third phrase sticking out like an engorged clitoris.  It’s bad grammar and just won’t sound right to your readers. Here are a couple possible rewrites:

I felt light-headed and aroused, and my genitals were engorged.

I felt light-headed, aroused, and like my genitals were engorged.

In the first rewrite, I’ve created a compound sentence.

In the second rewrite, I’ve added the word like to create a list of three parallel items. You can always test the items in your list by lining them up, like I did above. Here’s the new list.

  • felt light-headed
  • felt aroused
  • felt like my genitals were engorged

Works better this time, huh?

Also note comma placement in the second rewrite. Each item in the list is followed by a comma, even the one that’s followed by the word and. This is known as the serial comma and is the subject of some controversy among grammarians.

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  1. May 12th, 2011

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