1. WritingNoob
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    WritingNoob Member

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    Check of using semi colon?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by WritingNoob, May 29, 2010.

    hey guys is this the right way to use a semi-colon instead of using the word 'but'?

    "The British people at first kind to the Dutch; though they eventually became bitter."

    thanks
     
  2. Roland of Gilead
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    Roland of Gilead Member

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    You really honestly want to avoid using semicolons. They really don't do anything that other punctuation already does, and they are typically just thrown in a bunch to make the author seem smart.

    And no, that does not seem to be the correct way. You would use it to separate two clauses, like this: "I just ate a pickle; it was delicious." As you can see, though, I could have just made that two sentences or used "and" in between clauses.
     
  3. Humour Whiffet
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    Humour Whiffet Banned

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    First, I presume that you have missed out a “were” in the first part of the sentence. (The British people were at first kind...)

    I suspect there are two reasons you think that a semi colon is needed:

    1. You have identified the “they eventually became bitter” part as something that could stand alone as a sentence.

    2. You have used something such as the FANBOYS mnemonic and have (wrongly) assumed that you cannot use “though” as a conjunction. As such, you have concluded that a semi colon must be used to avoid a “comma splice.”

    However,“though” can be used as a subordinating conjunction. Therefore you don’t need the semi colon at all. A simple comma will do.
     
  4. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually we use a semicolon to join complete sentences together to make one sentence. The sentences should be closely related.

    A semicolon is only really necessary if the information is too complicated to rewrite and combine without a semicolon. For this reason, semicolons are more useful in academic writing, or in a more mature, literary style of writing. For contemporary creative writing, simplicity, i.e. no semicolons, tends to be more appropriate.

    e.g.
    The light from the monitor was hurting his eyes. sentence 1
    He needed to turn the machine off and take a break. sentence 2

    You could of course just keep these as two sentences, but because they are related, you could make one sentence:
    The light from the monitor was hurting his eyes; he needed to turn the machine off and take a break.

    It would be possible to combine the sentences above with because/as/since/and etc. It really depends where you want the emphasis in the sentence to fall, and the choice of conjunction can subtly alter the meaning, as well.
     
  5. WritingNoob
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    WritingNoob Member

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    ok, thanks this helps.

    i'm still struggling on when to use a semi-colon.

    what other advice is there?
     
  6. Boring Editor
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    Boring Editor Member

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    What a load of nonsense.
     
  7. twopounder
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    My English professor said they are to break up groups of groups. In other words:

    Bob, the baker; Tom, the miller; Angela, the apprentice;

    However, I find this mostly to be rubbish.

    Semi colons are only to be used as such:

    void main()

    using namespace std;

    int x;
    int y;

    x = 1;
    y = 2;

    n = x + y;
    cout << "number is " n + /endl;

    Yah, don't use ; if you don't understand what it is for.
     
  8. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    "...My English professor said they are to break up groups of groups...."

    Two,

    Your teacher is correct. But incomplete.

    ";" can be used for lists.

    It can also be used to connect related independant clauses:
    "I went out to lunch, but I forgot my wallet."
    "I went out to lunch; I forgot my wallet."

    Or, it can be used between clauses linked by a phrase:
    "John lost his job. As we all know, his drinking gets him into trouble all the time."
    "John lost his job; as we all know, his drinking gets him into trouble all the time."

    That's for English. Other languages may have different usages.

    I, personally, don't use it in writing - but don't mind reading it.

    -Frank
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use a semi colon when I have two sentences that work well together, and I feel a fullstop and capital letter affect the flow and cause me to pause too much when reading it back.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can write everything using simplified English if you like. All the other words don't do anything that simplified English words don't already. But most of us want to have the full range of the language available to us in our writing, and that includes the full range of punctuation. Sometimes the semicolon is the best tool for the job, in which case one should use it.

    But you're right, it wasn't used correctly in the question you replied to.
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not sure you can get away with that one. The two clauses just don't seem closely enough related.
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but better is don't use ; until you know what it's for.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's some sensible stuff on Wikipedia, although it acknowledges that it's not complete. The main thing, though, is getting a feel for the language. In most cases you have a choice of using the semicolon or writing it a simpler way. The natural instinct should be towards the simpler expression, which is why there's some resistance to the semicolon. But if you let the trend towards simplification go all the way you can end up with a style that's staccato and child-like. Combining those primitive sentences into longer ones can give you variation in pace, and the semicolon is one way to do it.

    So I'm afraid that once again it all comes down to reading a lot :rolleyes:
     
  14. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    I like this explanation best. The semi-colon is used primarily to affect the flow of reading. It isn't ever necessary because either a period or a comma+conjunction (or possibly a because/since/etc) will suffice in any situation. Here's an (unedited) example from my own writing:

    “I need to hide…but where? Caves are out of the question; that’s their turf. A tree?”

    “I need to hide…but where? Caves are out of the question because that’s their turf. A tree?”

    “I need to hide…but where? Caves are out of the question. That’s their turf. A tree?”

    “I need to hide…but where? Caves are out of the question, but that’s their turf. A tree?”

    I originally picked a semi-colon because I wanted his speech to sound quick but not broken. I'm not sure if it will stay that way after revising, but hopefully that illustrates the way a semi-colon is used. It's an extra choice that gives more control over how something is read.

    +++

    The other use, which is just as valid, is for when you have a lot of commas and need to differentiate between them.

    twopounder offered this: "My English professor said they are to break up groups of groups. / Bob, the baker; Tom, the miller; Angela, the apprentice;"

    But, you can also use it for when you have a list preceding the connector in compound sentences:

    I like reading, writing, and sleeping, and I hate running, baseball, and fishing.

    vs

    I like reading, writing, and sleeping; and I hate running, baseball, and fishing.

    It simply makes things more readable with this usage.
     
  15. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's actually a classic place for a colon:
    “I need to hide…but where? Caves are out of the question: that’s their turf. A tree?”
     
  16. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    That makes sense. I didn't see that before because I don't often use colons in dialog. I tend towards semi's or dashes for some reason. I think it has to do with my personal preferences. I typically think if I'm using a colon in this kind of context, I might as well use a period.
     
  17. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what it all comes down to, ultimately. It's such preferences and choices that give us our distinctive voices.
    Except the flow would be different -- which is where we came in.
     
  18. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    Very true. I apparently forgot that the topic at hand doesn't only apply to semi-colons. :rolleyes:

    Edit: Semi-colon looked weird with a hyphen, so I did a quick search to figure out if hyphenated was acceptable (vs semicolon), and it is. But along the way, I found this very relevant post on TheOatmeal:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon
     
  19. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, knowing when to use semicolons includes knowing the alternatives and how to choose between them, doesn't it? :)
     
  20. Argle
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    Yup. That's what I meant. I wasn't trying to be sarcastic or anything like that. I was just pointing out how far my neglect of the poor colon goes. :)
     
  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while the semicolon can be very useful in non-fiction, if you're writing fiction for the us market, a period, comma, em dash, or conjunction will do a much better job and not annoy readers who aren't used to [or just plain don't like] seeing them in fiction...

    you'll see them used more often in fiction meant for the uk/commonwealth market...
     
  22. Boring Editor
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    Yes. If you're catering to the lowest common denominator, avoid semi-colons at all costs. While you're at it, stick to simple sentences and words with two syllables or less.
     
  23. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree it has a use, according to my English instructor anyway. Sometimes it could be argued that a period is better but sometimes a comma just isn't right and leaving nothing there doesn't work either. And sometimes a period just doesn't work right either. It's not something to abuse but it's a valid punctuation.
     
  24. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Totally. One time I read a sentence that used one and I was like, "Wow, this guy must be some kinda genius!" But then I was all, "Naw, he just put that there to look smart." Now I get enraged whenever I see one.

    Yeah, save that pretentious "semi-colon" nonsense for them tea-swillin', beret-wearin' folk overseas.
     
  25. Argle
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    Argle Member

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    These opinions are so interesting. I can't tell if they're serious...
     

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