1. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Member

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    Multiple punctuation - semicolons, emdashes, and commas in one sentence

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by E. C. Scrubb, Aug 3, 2012.

    This is a fanfic work (HP world) that I'm writing, and am editing it one last time before I post it. I got it back from a Beta today and started reading through it, only to find this paragraph with semicolons. After the discussion here, I had two questions:

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    I believe the punctuation in what is posted below is technically correct. Can I get feedback to see if I'm right or wrong?

  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Please limit responses to the correctness of the punctuation, not esthetics. Critique is not permitted in this part of the site.
  3. Mckk
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    Mckk Contributing Member Contributor

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    If anything, I'd say the use of semi-colon there is not correct. Now I'm not 100% sure so double check and wait for other responses, but semi-colons are either used to connect 2 fully independent sentences with closely related meanings, or else they're used to separate items in a list. Yours does neither.

    I'd write it like this:
    I changed the first semi into a full colon - colons are usually used in front of a list, after all. I'd keep the commas in the list as is. Finish the list at the end with a period, and added "washed over him" in the next sentence so it could be a stand-alone because otherwise the sentence is simply too long.

    I know nothing about the emdashes so no comment.

    Alternatively I would finish the sentence at "threshold" and start the list as a complete separate sentence. Not grammatically, technically correct but it's often done for atmosphere/emphasis in fiction.

    Now if you really wanna use your semi-colons, then I'd either use it in place of the commas in the list, or else use it like this, keeping the structure I've improvised because you need 2 independent sentences in order to connect them with a semi:
    Notice the semi-colon is between the 2 full sentences - between the words "floors" and "a wave of feelings...". I'd keep the colon I inserted as is because you simply do not start a list with a semi-colon. You must start with a colon, or else start it as a stand-alone sentence.
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  4. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Member

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    Ahh, I see what you're doing there. I really liked how you did it.

    As far as the semicolons go, I was using the two of them in lieu of commas, but after reading what you wrote, I went back to my style guides and realized that you're right, the first one is absolutely wrong. The second one is okay, but reads kind of clunky at that point.

    I just went ahead and broke them all up into sentences and did away with the semicolons all together. Sigh. Thanks for the input, it really did help.

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