Style Guide > 3 Punctuation > [3.34] Hierarchy
[3.34] Hierarchy
3.34 Hierarchy of punctuation
Use the following hierarchy to solve punctuation problems. The highest order mark is the period, then the semicolon, then the comma, and so on down to the square backet:
       .   ;   ,   —   (   [   ]   )   —   ,   ;   .
highest                lowest                highest
For example, if you are creating a series of phrases and one of the phrases contains a comma, then move out to the next higher punctuation mark (semicolon) to separate the phrases in the series.
Similarly, if a set-off contains parentheses, you cannot use parentheses to punctuate the set-off from the sentence. You can either change the parentheses inside the set-off to the next lower punctuation mark (square brackets) and retain the outer parentheses, or you can keep the inner parentheses and move the outer ones up to an em dash.
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