A Dispute Over Semicolons

With all of  the fairly serious problems in the world today, you’d think the very last thing we’d have to dispute is grammar, right?  Well, you’d be wrong.  According to the popular (at least among people whose own names do not appear in any sort of lease or property title documents aka: live a basement somewhere) website Grammarly, there is a dispute in one users’ family about the proper use of a semicolon. (You can just feel the excitement, can’t you?)

Here is the disputed sentence (with no punctuation):

 Music theory will help teach you how music works how to read and write music how to sight-read music and how to pick out melodies and chords based on hearing alone.

Now, as (the person posting) sees it there are four items in question in this sentence. 1) how music works, 2) how to read and write music, 3) how to sight-read music, and 4) how to pick out melodies and chords based on hearing alone.  His request is for this sentence to be punctuated two different ways: 1) with all of the listed items (1-4) as equal value to each other, and then 2) as if the last three items (2-4) are describing the first item (1).

In the end, the sentence must still be ONE sentence (it cannot be rewritten). Just add the proper punctuation to achieve the two results.

So…the good people at Grammarly said this:

Here’s how I would do it. Note the Oxford comma in the first and the colon in the second. It’s used to introduce a list within a sentence.

Music theory will help teach you how music works, how to read and write music, how to sight-read music, and how to pick out melodies and chords based on hearing alone.

Music theory will help teach you how music works: how to read and write music, how to sight-read music, and how to pick out melodies and chords based on hearing alone.

End of dispute, right?  Wrong once again because the Oxford comma conflicts with Associated Press style, which does not require the comma for the third item in any series. So according to AP (aka fake grammar news), it would be:

Music theory will help teach you how music works: how to read and write music, how to sight-read music and how to pick out melodies and chords based on hearing alone.

Proof positive that human people can dispute literally anything.  And when disputes get legal and affect your business such as unlawful detainer matters, contract disputes or collections, both Oxford and AP grammar experts agree that you should call Dean Sperling, a wizard with commas in his own right. He’ll get your matter resolved with YOUR best interests in mind.