1. charlotte jane
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    charlotte jane New Member

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    Any tips on semi-colons and commas?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by charlotte jane, Jan 8, 2009.

    Right guys, well here's the thing. My writing's good, but my grammar pulls it down! Does any one have any good tips on easy ways to remember when to put a comma and semi-colon? I'd reeeally appreciate it guys. Thanks xo:)
     
  2. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    Use a comma when introducing an independent clause. For example: "While he knew she was coming, he was still nervous."

    A semi-colon is used for two sentences that are related to each other but not joined by a conjunction. A conjunction is a word like: and, but, because, for, so, etc ... For example: "He knew Gretchen; he didn't like her. Those are two different sentences. To put them together with a comma is known as a "comma splice". It is technically wrong, though authors have been known to use them.

    Hope this helps.
     
  3. Benska
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    Benska Member

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    Hey Charlotte =].

    A lot of people tend to avoid sime-colons all together, because they can be tricky little things. They're basically used to help with pacing your writing. The pause a semi-colon provides id a little longer than a comma, but a little shorter than a period.

    I'm pretty sure that's the main thing it's used for; though I'm sure there are many other functions.

    As for the commas, I just use them as comes naturally. I'm far too tired to try and decypher their use lol.

    Hope I helped =].

    ~Ben
     
  4. fantasywriter
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    fantasywriter Contributing Member

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    Both commas and semi-colons are used to seperate two sentences in a flowing manner.

    Comma:

    "Bob walked to the end of the street, and then he turned the corner and was no longer in view."

    Commas include conjunctions, like Daedalus said.

    Semi-colon:

    "Bob walked to the end of the street; he turned the corner and was no longer in view."

    Semi-colons seperate sentences without using a conjunction.

    At least, that's how I learned it in English class. ;)
     
  5. Hexapod
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    Hexapod New Member

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  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    don't use semicolons [it's a single word, not a hyphenate] in fiction... wherever you would do so in fiction, a comma, period, em dash, or conjunction will do a much better job... in non-fiction follow the rules:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_overvw.html

    use commas judiciously, also following the rules:
    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html
     
  7. Daedalus
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    Daedalus Active Member

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    In American English, yes. Not in Commonwealth, which is used in Canada. :)

    Unless, of course, they've removed it as well. Language is forever evolving. Last time I checked Cambridge English dictionary, though, there was a hyphen in it.
     
  8. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    American rules on punctuation are (slightly) different to British/ Commonwealth rules/conventions, e.g. the use of comma in listing:
    I bought apples, oranges, tomatoes, and eggs. (Am Eng)
    I bought apples, oranges, tomatoes and eggs. (Br Eng)

    Given the different emphases and rhythms of speech in American and British/Commonwealth English, small variations are normal, I'd say, and obviously one method of using a comma is not 'more correct' than another for a novelist--it depends on the readership it's intended for.

    As to using semicolons (in my Oxford dictionary it's one word, but I think I've seen it hyphenated also), it's true that they are discouraged nowadays in POPULAR fiction writing.

    Their use depends on the 'register' of the language i.e. it boils down to style and genre. If you write slow-paced descriptive passages with longer sentences, semicolons are essential if you are going to punctuate correctly. An m-dash does not replace the semi-colon under conventional rules, certainly in British English (it is more like brackets or commas). The question is, does your novel really require these slow-paced descriptive passages?

    You only have to read a (recent, bestselling) book by Alan Bennett 'The Uncommon Reader' to see how the correct use of semi-colons adds to the wry humour and pacing of the narrative. Trouble is, not many of us can write as well as Alan Bennett.
     
  9. Forde
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    Forde Member

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    An enduring sticky-wicket! I always learned that you can use a semi-colon in a sentence where a full stop would be too 'harsh' but a comma too 'soft'.

    Now I'm even more confused!
     
  10. perylousdemon
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    perylousdemon Member

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    Well, that last comma (the "Oxford comma", as it's called) is never required; it's really a matter of preference. I like it, but I know that it's often omitted in newspaper articles and such.
     

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