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Example sentence:

You're procrastinating. No, worse than that[punctuation] you're avoiding the problem.

I've seen a period, semicolon, em dash, and sometimes a comma being used.

I think the period and em dash are definitely correct. What about the comma?

2
  • A comma there doesn't seem incorrect to me – Adrián Jaramillo Dec 16 '20 at 15:23
  • I believe the comma would be most appropriate. – Dhanishtha Ghosh Dec 16 '20 at 15:23
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In the text

You're procrastinating. No, worse than that[punctuation] you're avoiding the problem.

a comma is probably the most likely punctuation to be used after "that". A comma is reticently an acceptable option here. A period would be most unlikely, because "No, worse than that" is not really an independent sentence, although it could be parsed as one. In my view a semicolon is undesirable for the same reason, although some people would use a semicolon here. a dash is possible, as is a colon. But if a dash is used, I would favor matching it with a dash after "no". But "No, worse than that" is a common set phrase, and so some would feel the dash to be out of place within it.

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I would prefer a dash, as the use of a comma in examples like this seems like a comma splice.

You're procrastinating. No, worse than that - you're avoiding the problem.

What you are trying to say is that the person's avoiding the problem is worse than the procrastination previously mentioned. There is a link between these two independent clauses and a comma does not join clauses, it separates them.

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Yes, a comma goes after the word that. It separates part of the sentence to answer the question of what someone is doing that is worse than procrastinating.

You're procrastinating. No, worse than that, you're avoiding the problem.

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