The Printable KISS Grammar Workbooks The Theodore Dreiser Page
(Code and Color Key)

From The Lost Phoebe, by Theodore Dreiser
The Original Text for "An Exercise in Punctuation"
Analysis Key

This seventy-six-word main clause should help students see why semicolons are used to separate items in a series when those items themselves include commas. In this case, we have a series of appositives.

All sorts {of other broken-down furniture} were {about this place}; [#1] an

antiquated clothes-horse [#2], cracked [#3] {in two} {of its ribs}; a broken

mirror [#2] {in an old cherry frame}, [Adj. to "frame" which had fallen 

{from a nail} and cracked itself (DO) three days [NuA] [Adj. to "days"

before their youngest son, Jerry [#4], died]]; an extension hat-rack [#2],

[Adj. to "hat-rack" which once had had porcelain knobs (DO) {on the 

ends} {of its pegs}]; and a sewing machine [#2], long since outdone [#5

{in its clumsy mechanism} {by rivals} {of a newer generation}. |

1. Most textbooks would probably suggest a colon here, but note that Dreiser used a semicolon.
2. "Clothes-horse," "mirror," "hat-rack," and "sewing machine" are examples of the "sorts," and thus appositives to it. Note that we could alternatively explain these as ellipsed clauses -- "a clothes-horse ... *was about the place* ... a mirror ... *was about the place* ...." etc. But that is a cumbersome explanation.
3. "Cracked" is a gerundive to "clothes-horse."
4. "Jerry" is an appositive to "son."
5. "Outdone" is a gerundive to "machine."