1. Kristen
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    Kristen New Member

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    Does anyone else have a semi colon addiction?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Kristen, Jan 24, 2011.

    I know I overuse semi colons...I just love the way that sentences sound!

    Anyone else need to attend SC anonymous with me?

    :p
     
  2. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Well, I certainly use semicolons frequently. In essays and technical papers, I often find that the semicolon is a good way to show that points are related.

    While I don't think gratuitous use of semicolons is useful, I know I use semicolons, m-dashes and such more than many writers. But I'm not convinced this is a bad thing. Yes, there are many people who use hyphens and semicolons infrequently (if ever). But I am a more competent writer than many, so saying "most people do it differently" holds little weight.

    I don't use semicolons as often when I write fiction. There may be a reason for this, but I suspect it's just because my "writer voice" is still in the making when it comes to the fiction I've done. And, of course, action and dialogue don't seem to call for semicolons as much as a paper on radiation hormesis or networking in Renaissance Italy.
     
  3. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    Writing in C++ or Perl, I certainly use semicolons a lot!

    In English, no. You get the same "sound" by using a full stop. Only use a semicolon instead to indicate an especially close connection between the two independent clauses.
     
  4. Kristen
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    Kristen New Member

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    I'm beginning to wonder if my semi colon addiction isnt indicative of a real flaw in my writing. Maybe it means that I am too often telling and not showing (or I am lapsing into academic style writing!)...
    But to me it has a different impact than simply using a full stop. And it seems to be a natural part of my writing 'voice'. Does it make a difference that it is written in first person?

    Here are a few sentences from my first chapter (and there is plenty of dialogue and action in between the moments of reflection when the semi colon bender kicks in!). I would say there is one semi colon per page (approx 300 words per page).

    (a) Our royal ancestor was lithe and nimble; she danced, bareback, atop a white stallion in her spare time.

    (b) Teenage girls ‘sext’ their classmates, girls or boys; it doesn’t matter.

    (c) We had long grown shy; we only saw one another once a year, it was to be expected.

    (d) This year’s colour theme was traditional; the candles were nestled in wreaths of plastic holly and placed along a felted silk table runner.

    (e) It was really something to behold; quite unlike the paint by numbers craft projects Gran usually undertook.

    (f) Together with the deep and familiar ache of jealousy, it was almost too much; the unearthly sweetness of the babies, all pouty and pink.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
     
  5. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a couple suggestions for cutting down on the number of semicolons. Comma, period, "as", "since", etc will usually get the job done without making major changes to the structure.

    As for (f) I'd think a restructuring of the sentence would be necessary.

    Edit: I know it's not always satisfying -- I've got an m-dash addiction that I'm trying to fight myself. I use it instead of semicolon since it feels less formal and dogmatic.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes it has, and sometimes one works better, sometimes the other.
    That doesn't sound excessive to me, it does just sound as if it's part of your voice.
    The semicolon is fine. "Atop" makes me wince, and I think "in her spare time" would be better at the beginning of the phrase because where it is "in" makes me expect a location. "Our royal ancestor was lithe and nimble; in her spare time she danced bareback on a white stallion."
    If you are going to have a semicolon I don't think it belongs there: "Teenage girls ‘sext’ their classmates; girls or boys, it doesn’t matter."
    Not enough semicolons! Or at least you need to do something about that run-on sentence. "We had long grown shy; we only saw one another once a year; it was to be expected." Or make at least one of those clauses a separate sentence.
    Ok, but I'd actually prefer a colon: "This year’s colour theme was traditional: the candles were nestled in wreaths of plastic holly and placed along a felted silk table runner."
    There I think a comma would be better. "It was really something to behold, quite unlike the paint by numbers craft projects Gran usually undertook."
    Again, I'd go for a colon where you have the semicolon: "Together with the deep and familiar ache of jealousy, it was almost too much: the unearthly sweetness of the babies, all pouty and pink."
     
  7. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I clicked this link from the main page. Overwhelmingly disappointed.
     
  8. Kristen
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    Kristen New Member

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    Thanks so much for your excellent comments.

    Would you agree that in first person you have greater poetic license when it comes to grammar? I'm thinking Ulysses...
    Or do you think that is just an excuse to write poorly structured run on sentences?
    My character is a visual arts lecturer so she had better know her way around grammar and punctuation!

    Sorry to disappoint Art! :p
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's fair to call Ulysses "experimental", and probably not a good guide to what you can get away with. The voice should be that of your narrator, so yes, if your narrator uses colloquial speech forms (including non-standard grammar) then your narration should too. From my experience with visual arts lecturers, their grammar is usually impeccable but their sentence structure might be a bit more complex than the less well educated person's. I'd probably expect more semicolons that usual :D
     
  10. Kristen
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    Kristen New Member

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    I did mean to put one of these pokey out tongue faces after my Ulysses comment! :p
    Thanks again!
     
  11. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    My name is F.F., and I am a semicolon addict. Man, I even use those bitches when texting, I don't care how long it takes.

    I respectfully disagree; the difference is subtle but it's there.

    The times it would be grammatically correct to use a semicolon are more frequent than you are implying here. You say "only" like it's a rare thing.

    Ahahahaha!
     
  12. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    All except (b) should be changed to a full stop, with no other editing needed. There is no need to mentally run different sentences together. The period is the correct punctuation at the end of a sentence, period!
     
  13. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    I mean the same sound, literally. Someone reading the text out loud would speak one independent clause and then the next. It would sound the same if you used a semicolon.


    Normal well-formed paragraphs will have some relationship and "closeness" between the individual sentences. They use periods. So that is the "normal" case.

    It is when the relationship between the statements is even closer than that will you use a semicolon instead. Perhaps there is an unspoken "and", "but", "therefore" etc. in between them.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The good writer will be competent with all the tools available, and that includes the semicolon. You can get by without ever using a semicolon. Some people can paint a masterpiece with their good hand tied behind their back. But why on earth would you, except perhaps for the practice?
     
  15. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    I thought after a colon there had to be a capital letter.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope.
     
  17. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Sownd tha sayme" would sound the same when read aloud. To periods back-to-back would sound the same when read aloud. A lot of written language is like that.

    Yes, and this happens quite often.
     
  18. Spacer
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    Spacer Active Member

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    See here.

    Not only do styles differ, but the rules of each style are quite complex.
     
  19. Kristen
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    Kristen New Member

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    I hope you don't mind helping me with another semicolon quandary; you all seem much better equipped than I!

    This sentence is in relation to a a bundle of ephemera----->

    Each of the items had their own tiny story; their small voices sounding softly through the wormhole.

    or

    Each of the items had their own tiny story. Their small voices sounded softly through the wormhole.

    or

    Each of the items had their own tiny story, their small voices sounding softly through the wormhole.
    _____________________

    is mentioning a wormhole in relation to ephemera just entirely naff anyway?

    Since beginning my novel and joining this forum I have realized that I don't have a great explicit understanding of grammar and punctuation in spite of completing post grad studies and writing many, many essays (which were well received and by no means lacking in the SPaG department!).

    Is this a case of simply over thinking it all? I'm worried that I might interrupt the creative process if I continue in this fashion...because I have a damn good story to tell and I just want to get it out! Do you think I should just get on with the writing and stop thinking about punctuation and grammar until i enter the revision/rewriting stage?
    :)
     
  20. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If people spoke in robot voices and didn't use gestures and facial expressions, then yes, you're right.
     
  21. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want to deploy a semi-colon here then..none of the above..

    Each of the items had their own tiny story; their small voices sounded softly through the wormhole.

    I am not overly keen on your wormhole.:)
     
  22. Boring Editor
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    The semi-colon is the most misused punctuation mark I see, which is a shame; I find it to be an extremely useful tool for emphasising a connection or difference between two sentence, and for disambiguating complex lists.

    Let's stop these silly absolutes from flying around. All absolutes are flawed, after all!

    Though fragmented sentences are accepted in fiction, a fragment following a semi-colon is almost always considered a mistake. An interesting point, I think.


    This is the only correct version, by the way.
     
  23. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not strictly so.

    Each of the items had their own tiny story. Their small voices sounded softly through the wormhole.

    is fine, but wants flow. Sounded is/ can be a verb etc
     
  24. Boring Editor
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    Ah, I read that to be "Each of the items had their own tiny story. Their small voices sounding. . ."

    My mistake. Thanks for the correction, art.
     
  25. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    After years of academic writing making semicolons (and colons) an integral part of my life, I can now report myself cured of this addiction, at least in fiction writing.

    I've learnt to rephrase sentences so that a semicolon isn't actually something I miss. It gives the little stories I send off to magazines a lighter, fresher feel...less pretentious, maybe. I'm up to 60,000 in the latest romance--and, OMG, there's not a semicolon in sight. If you'd told me 2 years ago I could achieve this, I guess I'd have laughed, and probably made some snide superior comment about how British readers understand and enjoy, yes actually enjoy, a regular semicolon intake.

    Thank you very much to maia and others here for helping me loosen up on this fixation, since I really do think my writing has a more modern and direct look without semicolons. I think that there may be occasions where semicolons have their place, certainly in more academic or 'literary' writing, but that is not what I'm after at the moment.

    P.S. I don't agree that em dashes etc totally take their place, though. I rewrite to avoid the semicolon situation entirely and use em dashes very sparingly.
     

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