1. zawmbee
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    zawmbee New Member

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    Can "and" follow a semi-colon?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by zawmbee, May 22, 2011.

    While reading 'Of Mice and Men', there are many instances of this. I was told otherwise.

    "'You oughten to sleep out here,' he said disapprovingly; and then he was beside her and..."
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    After all, Mice Of Men was written in 1930's (I think)...so maybe things are done differently now..
     
  3. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    The rule is generally semi-colon OR comma and conjunction. A semi colon is technically supposed to divide two complete sentences. To have a complete sentence on the other side, you most likely wouldn't begin the sentence with "And" because then it would become a fragment. However, despite all of our grammar rules, I think we'll find people who have been published and managed to defy some of them. I think of the first time I read The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. I think there was a run-on that lasted half a page!
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I use semi-colons with "and" all the time in my legal practice. This occurs when presenting a list of items, and in fact is an accepted part of patent claim language. Whether this is a hold over from some earlier writing style, I don't know. But it wouldn't surprise me.

    A typical patent claim might read:

    A device for transporting a user from one location to another, the device comprising: a body; at least one wheel; a motor; and a steering mechanism.

    Commas are not supposed to be used in place of those semi-colons.

    You will often see this use of semi-colons in contracts as well, when separating a long list of terms. It may be that they are only used for purposes of clarity, because the separate provisions may have commas in them, so using commas to separate distinct provisions would be confusing and render the contract language potentially vague or ambiguous.

    At any rate, those are at least some instances where I commonly find semi-colons used with conjunctions.
     
  5. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    Rules of grammar and punctuation should never be broken. As Winston Churchill once said, "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put."

    In all seriousness, a writer needs to understand rules of grammar and punctuation in order to use language effectively. If you study this paragraph in its entirety, it should be apparent why Steinbeck broke a few rules of "proper" English:

    "When she didn't answer, he stepped nearer. "You oughten to sleep out here," he said disapprovingly; and then he was beside her and- "Oh, Jesus Christ!" He looked about helplessly, and he rubbed his beard. And then he jumped up and went quickly out of the barn. "
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Can't say I agree with that.
     
  7. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    ^^ Yeah when you see the whole paragraph it makes more sense. In a rush of action like this it makes sense to break grammatical rules because it conveys the tone.

    EDIT: @Steerpike -- I think he was being sarcastic. Correct me if I'm wrong, James.
     
  8. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    I should hope not. I'm sorry you missed the humor.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ah. Humor. It did seem like an inherently-contradictory post. I didn't realize you were going for humor.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes that appears to be the case. Must have had my sarcasm detector on silent.
     
  11. zawmbee
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    zawmbee New Member

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    So it was purposely broken to reflect his tone? Fair enough. I didn't actually take that into consideration. Thanks a lot.

    I have another question when considering novel or prose writing: when does a comma not have to precede a conjunction?
    "He looked about helplessly, and he rubbed his beard."
    Could this not be, "He looked about helplessly and he rubbed his beard."?
    "And then he jumped up and went quickly out of the barn."

    Is that also part of tone?
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    My recollection is that if you have two independent clauses joined by the conjunction, you use a comma.

    Personally, I use or disregard commas as necessary in order to achieve the desired flow of a sentence. The vast majority of the time, this ends up follows the appropriate rules, but sometimes it does not.
     
  13. zawmbee
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    zawmbee New Member

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    Then why is it when you're using adjectives for description they should always follow commas? It can't be for clarity sake because saying there was, "a dark and tall and handsome man," may look bad, but it's just as clear as saying there was a "dark, tall, and handsome man. I've read a lot of books that follow ever adjective by "and"; so I always thought it was for personal preference, but my teacher told me otherwise.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Generally, when you area listing items you use a comma to separate them. A string of adjective to describe someone is somewhat like a list I suppose. I'm not a grammar guru, so even in instances where I know what the rule is I can't necessarily enlighten you as to why it is that way. Seems to me there are different rules governing different usages, and a rule for commas that applies to a list doesn't necessarily have to be consistent with a rule that governs separation of independent clauses.
     
  15. zawmbee
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    zawmbee New Member

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    Ah, thank you very much :)
     
  16. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm glad you asked this question because it was something I didn't know either. I just checked on Grammar Girl, and she answers this way:

    She's got a really good section on how/when to use semicolons in various situations. Go to:

    grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/how-to-use-semicolons.aspx
     
  17. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    I find that I usually overuse commas as I write and delete many of them during re-write. I never consult rules. I simply ask myself "Is this comma necessary for clarity or for the pace I'm trying to set?" If not, out it goes!
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think that's the right approach for commas, personally.
     
  19. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's interesting. It's hard to think of a situation in which that would be considered good, formal usage though. It's almost always that the "and" would, as she says, add to the flow of the sentence. I often find myself starting sentences with "and" because I'm really going for this sort of construction, but in the end I usually end up taking that as a sign that I've worded it poorly. This kind of construction makes the most sense in dialogue, I think.

    I used to use semi-colons all the time. When I look back at my undergrad papers, they're everywhere. Now I hardly ever use them.
     
  20. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    I totally forgot about the whole semicolon to separate a complex sentence from a compound. Good eye! However, in today's writing, I doubt that it would be very useful. Shorter sentences are the norm just for clarity's sake.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short sentences are not necessarily clear. Long sentences are not necessarily unclear. Good writing still balances long and short sentences to control the flow and pace. Some of Virginia Woolf's monsters might not get published nowadays, but that's because they're complex, not because they're long.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes!
     
  23. teacherayala
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    teacherayala Contributing Member

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    good point!
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, the relevant question is the old one of "can you start a sentence with 'and'?" If a semicolon is correctly used to separate two complete sentences, and it's legitimate to start a sentence with 'and', then this semicolon seems to be used perfectly conventionally.

    Of course, Steinbeck is Steinbeck, so it really doesn't matter if he's conventionally correct or not.

    ChickenFreak
     
  25. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    A writer needs to know the rules of grammar and punctuation in order to be able to break them effectively.
     

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