It seems to me that I often hear syntactical structures similar to:

"He was nice; the other two, less so."

However, I am not sure what the correct way to punctuate would be.

  • 3
    If you look through the results of a GoogleBooks search for the sequence the other less so (GB indexes ignore punctuation) you'll find many examples matching your context. It looks like most writers go for the same "semicolon + comma" as you've written above. But I confess to a sneaking admiration for those who are bold enough to replace that semicolon with a comma and leave it at that. It reads fine to me that way, and in matters of punctuation, it's nearly always true that "less is more". Sep 27, 2021 at 11:38
  • @Fumble, I see the semicolon as absolutely required. It is not "boldness" but pure error to replace it with a comma.
    – randomhead
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:30
  • 1
    @randomhead If the second comma weren't there, would you still insist on a semicolon? For example, "He was nice, the other two weren't." Sep 27, 2021 at 14:22
  • @randomhead: I profoundly disagree with you there. But part of my problem is that there's been a marked shift towards less punctuation (and "lighter" punctuation - reducing semicolons to commas, etc.) over the past couple of centuries. Consequently it's not so easy for me to refute your position by quoting famous writers of the past. The statistics of the whole issue are further complicated by the fact that today's writers usually write much shorter sentences than their Victorian predecessors, so they don't need so much punctuation anyway. But Jack's example is certainly a telling one. Sep 27, 2021 at 16:38
  • @Jack you have replaced the semicolon with a comma and you have substituted "were not" (a verb) for "less so" (an adverb). I agree that your example is correct, but it would not be if you had kept the original wording. You're comparing apples to oranges.
    – randomhead
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:39


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