Re: "Following" - Choice of words

Subject: Re: "Following" - Choice of words
From: Williams Diane <Williams_Diane -at- DOTE -dot- OSD -dot- MIL>
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 1996 15:26:36 -0400

>>Bob said: I've been waging a one-person campaign to eradicate the word
from all such contexts. I think it's utterly unnecessary, trite, and
simply adds numbing verbage. For example:

The following are the primary features of BlahBlah:
... or ...
The primary features of BlahBlah are the following:
... can always be easily recast as:
The primary features of BlahBlah are:
... or simply ...
The primary features of BlahBlah:

Please join me in this noble crusade.
Bob Morse <morse -at- globaldialog -dot- com> <<
The problem is, Bob, your use of the colon in these examples. When the
colon is used to introduce a list, it must follow an independent clause.
This is why folks add "...the following:" to precede a list.

If you want to eliminate "the following," you would also have to eliminate
the colon, and word each listing to act as a completion of the introductory
statement, such as in the following example:

A way to get to the mall is to
- ride the bus.
- walk.
- hitchhike.

Note that you could use closing punctuation in each listing. Chicago (13th
ed.) states in section 5.77: "A colon should not be used to introduce a
list that is a complement or object of an element in the introductory
statement" (such as the example above).

You can also reword your introductory statement so you don't need "the
following." You can end the introductory sentence either with a colon or a

There are three ways to get to the mall:
- ride the bus
- walk
- hitchhike

There is an excellent section on how to format different kinds of lists in
Robin Cormier's _Error-Free Writing: A Lifetime Guide to Flawless Business
Writing_ (Prentice Hall, 1995). You can order it from EEI. There is info on
EEI's web page:

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