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  1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    Colon misuse?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcusl, Nov 28, 2009.

    Here's another line from Mass Effect: Revelations:

    "To accommodate such enormous labor requirements, the refineries offered free room and board to employees and their families in the surrounding work camps: prefab buildings assembled in an ever-widening circle around the chain-link fence protecting the refinery itself."

    Shouldn't a semi-colon be used here instead of a colon? I thought colons were used to introduce quotes and lists, and semi-colons are used to link sentences that are related. Is that correct? Many thanks.
     
  2. lavendershy
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    lavendershy Contributing Member

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    Colons can be used when you're explaining what came directly before as this quote does. Prefab buildings assembled in an ever-widening circle around the chain-link fence protecting the refinery itself is explaining the surrounding work camps. A semicolon wouldn't be right because what comes after is not an independent clause. Just another use of a colon, one that you weren't aware of. It's not used much, really, so it's not a big deal. Hope this helps!

    Cheers,

    lavendershy
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm short on time so I'll make this short.

    That colon is fine. The clause after the colon is describing the "surrounding work camps." Colons are used in fiction for various reasons. The best way to see how they are used would be to google something along the lines of "colon usage in fiction."
     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The colon can be used to mean "that is" or "for example."

    The em-dash can serve the same purpose.

    The semi-colon cannot.
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I always use the em dash for this now. The sentence is fine, but an em dash would be better. It seems to be the preferred punctuation these days.

    A semicolon would be wrong, because they are generally used to join two complete sentences. But in that sentence, what follows the colon can't stand on its own. It would be a fragment.

    In fiction, you don't really have to bother with colons or semicolons. You'll be better off with an em dash or full stop, most of the time. I've come to regard the semicolon as rather pointless, for the most part, as in any case where one is used correctly, a full stop would apply.

    Still, the odd one creeps up in my work from time to time. They do have their uses.
     
  6. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    He IS introducing a list, or rather, a single item, that being the room and board which the employees and their families would live in.

    Basically, he just omitted the phrase 'that being the following'.

    For example: . . . the refineries offered free room and board to employees and their families in the surrounding work camps, that being the following: Prefab buildings assembled in an ever-widening circle around the chain-link fence protecting the refinery itself.



    Or something close to that, anyway.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in fiction, an em dash, comma, period, or conjunction will do a much better job than the colon or semicolon, imo... and will be more reader-friendly, to boot...
     

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