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I am writing a computing conference paper, it's for a high quality conference, and my friend and I have a mini dispute. The loser pays for drinks, so no pressure!

Which of the following is better/appropriate/there is no difference?

The loser will: 1. get laughed at, 2. pay for drinks and 3. have to run outside naked.

vs

The loser will: 1) get laughed at, 2) pay for drinks and 3) have to run outside naked.

In all seriousness though, is one more formal/acceptable than the other?

Also, I think I remember that maybe a ";" should be used instead of the ",".

Thanks for reading!

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    May this be the most serious problem you encounter with coauthors! – Andreas Blass Apr 11 '18 at 0:53
  • Specially when there's a free drink at stake! – abdnChap Apr 11 '18 at 1:00
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    You can also consider: i) get laughed at; ii) pay for drinks; and iii) have to run outside naked. – Massimo Ortolano Apr 11 '18 at 4:25
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    @MassimoOrtolano, why do you suggest a semicolon when a comma will suffice? – user2768 Apr 11 '18 at 9:49
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    Would not CS experts frown upon closing parentheses that have no opening counterparts? – Benoît Kloeckner Apr 11 '18 at 10:08
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They're both acceptable, nobody except very careful English fanatics are likely to care, but the latter is preferable. Reasons:

  1. Periods are more "final". They indicate the end of the sentence. That implies that you should instead use capital letters if you stick with periods:

    The loser will: 1. Get laughed at, 2. Pay for drinks and 3. Have to run outside naked.

  2. Because periods indicate the end of the sentence, one doesn't expect to see multiple periods in a single sentence. Using ) avoids this problem.

As for whether or not to use a semicolon, again it's up to you, but the comma is fine here. That's because the three things listed are all pretty related, short phrases, and on an equal footing. Semicolons are better when a sentence is complex or has other punctuation symbols. Example of something where I'd prefer the semicolon:

This new year, I resolve to: 1) cook 100 breakfasts for my wife - she deserves it; 2) set tests such that 50% of the class fails to shake my reputation as an academic Santa Claus; and 3) run for president.

  • Many thanks! One quickie though, you said "the latter is preferable" but then you used the first example. I prefer using the full stops, but are you saying that English fanatics would prefer using brackets? – abdnChap Apr 11 '18 at 0:56
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    @abdnChap Well they're both OK. The sentence I used had capital letters instead (Get laughed at, Pay for drinks) to go with the full stops. Without the capital letters, yes, English fanatics are likely to prefer brackets. PS, sorry about the drinks! – Allure Apr 11 '18 at 1:16
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    @Allure: The semicolon is mandated to separate items in a list when you have internal punctuation. – aeismail Apr 11 '18 at 1:48
  • Semicolons don't seem necessary in Allure's example. They would be necessary if internal punctuation included commas. @aeismail does your use of "internal punctuation" include hyphens? – user2768 Apr 11 '18 at 7:29
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    @user2768 It’s to remove any ambiguity. I’d rewrite to eliminate dashes, myself. – aeismail Apr 11 '18 at 13:02
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I think it's more a matter of personal taste.

When the points are within a paragraph, I prefer to use (i) etc., with the left bracket to clearly separate from the previous text:

The loser will: (i) get laughed at, (ii) pay for drinks and (iii) have to run outside naked.

The semicolons and commas are also subject to personal preference. In various instances I decide to use one or another; also whether to put any punctuation mark before the last and depends on context (although, contrary to the above example, I tend more often to insert it than don't).

In case when the points are presented in separate lines, the journal's template usually handles the formatting. Most often it's something like:

The loser will:

1) get laughed at,

2) pay for drinks,

3) have to run outside naked.

Again, the commas/semicolons at the ends of the lines are context-dependent.

If each point is not just a short enumeration, but consists of several sentences, I'd finish each point with a dot and start each (with 1) included) with capital letters.

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You will want to check your style guide. For APA Style

In running text, a series of items is designated by letters in parentheses: (a) first item, (b) second item, and (c) third item.

These lists are often called run in seriation. See also In text listing style - how to use? Any downsides?

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When numbering text inline, I think using parantheses to indicate that the number is not a part of the running text, is the best practice. Because the text might contain some other numbers.

For instance,

  1. The sum of positive even numbers up to 3 is 2, 2. The sum of positive odd numbers up to 3 is 4, 3. The sum of all numbers up to 3 is 6.

confusing.

1) The sum of positive even numbers up to 3 is 2, 2) The sum of positive odd numbers up to 3 is 4, 3) The sum of all numbers up to 3 is 6.

also not very clear.

(1) The sum of positive even numbers up to 3 is 2, (2) The sum of positive odd numbers up to 3 is 4, (3) The sum of all numbers up to 3 is 6.

Now, it is understanable.

However, my personal favorite is what @corey979 suggested. Using lowercase Roman numbers.

(i) The sum of positive even numbers up to 3 is 2, (ii) the sum of positive odd numbers up to 3 is 4, (iii) the sum of all numbers up to 3 is 6.

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