Colon? Semicolon? There IS a Difference!

I received a "performance tips" newsletter this week that is poorly written and contains a number of punctuation errors as well as poorly worded sentences.  Because those who take my workshops often ask about colons and semicolons, I will focus on that error here. 

Consider this sentence, which has to do with emotional intelligence:

The five areas are; self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, social skills.

Whoops!  There is NEVER  a good reason for separating a verb (ARE) from its object or, in this case the subject complement, with a semicolon.  A semicolon functions the same way a comma followed by AND would function, as in "It was almost noon; the report was due at one o'clock." What the writer of the "five areas" sentence meant to do was insert a flag (a colon) that announced an upcoming list.  However, the writer could have simply gone on with the list with no additional punctuation.  The sentence should read one of these two ways:

The five areas are: self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

The five areas are self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

 The same "Whoops!" was committed again in the next paragraph, which contains this statement :

By mastering the Sales competency called Emotional Intelligence you can improve these specific Sales Competencies; Goals, Positive Attitude, and Strong Self Confidence.

There should be a colon, not a semicolon, after COMPETENCIES.  I would also suggest that, because there is an eight-word introductory phrase before the subject of the sentence (YOU), there should be a comma before YOU.  Here is my edit:

By mastering the Sales competency called Emotional Intelligence, you can improve these specific Sales Competencies: Goals, Positive Attitude, and Strong Self Confidence.

PLEASE NOTE: The list of specific Sales Competencies in this newsletter is much longer, and it does not exhibit good parallel structure.  Check one of my later posts for a comment on proper parallel structure for a list like this one.


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