1. w.l.a
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    w.l.a New Member

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    Out of the mountains they walked...Punctuation help please

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by w.l.a, Jul 23, 2010.

    Any suggestions about this punctuation? I'm trying to get this right.

    Out of the mountains they walked; over rivers, through valleys and under trees, and when the party stopped for eating, the fairy collected berries to eat, and rested while she could.

    Is this right? Any help please!
     
  2. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I don't see any punctuation errors. But I suggest you break the sentence into two.

    Out of the mountains they walked; over rivers, through valleys and under trees. When the party stopped for eating, the fairy collected berries to eat, and rested while she could.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The punctuation is acceptable, although it's best to not use semicolons in fiction.

    However, the sentence itself should be broken into (at least) two separate ones. One sentence should talk about the entire party, and one should talk about the fairy. Your sentence, as it currently stands, has two completely different subjects.
     
  4. Fantasy of You
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    Fantasy of You Banned

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    Semi-colons are extremely useful in fiction (and non-fiction, of course) but they are so over/misused as to make such an opinion as Cogito's very popular.

    Your sentence is grammatically correct, though the semi-colon should only be used when needed. The way in which you've used it suggests you use the semi-colon too frequently. Consider revising the sentence to remove it, though it is technically sound.
     
  5. Vivian
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    Vivian Member

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    I'm confused. I was always taught that semi-colons are used in instances where each "part" of the whole sentence could stand alone as seperate sentences. Therefore,
    would not be such a place to use a semi-colon, since "over rivers, through valleys and under trees" is not a stand-alone sentance.

    V
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Strictly true. This is not a well-formed sentence, so there's only so much you can do with the punctuation.

    But fiction tolerates the use of sentence fragments in some circumstances, if not overused. Over rivers, through valleys and under trees would be okay as a standalone sentence, even though it is a fragment, so the semicolon is not abhorrent where it stands.

    But a semicolon is a weak compromise between a comma with a conjunction -- to join independent clauses into a compound sentence -- and a period -- to separate independent clauses into stand alone sentences. I would make three complete sentences out of the rambling sentence instead:
     
  7. w.l.a
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    w.l.a New Member

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    Awesome! Though I was supposed to say "Into the the mountains", doesn't matter, thank you very helpful.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would replace the semicolon with a comma, then replace the comma after "under trees" with a semicolon, and delete the following "and". Also, though this isn't a matter of punctuation, I would delete "to eat" after "berries"; it isn't necessary, I think. So my version would be:

    Out of the mountains they walked, over rivers, through valleys, and under trees; when the party stopped for eating, the fairy collected berries and rested while she could.

    EDIT: I'd probably rewrite the bit about the fairy, because "the fairy collected berries and rested while she could" suggests that she's resting while she's collecting berries. "The fairy collected berries THEN rested while she could" is more correct, but it doesn't read as well to me, so I'd try to find a way to rephrase it.
     
  9. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    I love this sentence, reminiscent of Tolkien so be careful when toying with it for fear of loosing whatever it has.

    This is a suggestion but not necessarily an improvement.

    They walked out of the mountains, through the valleys, over the rivers and under the trees, and when the party stopped for eating the fairy collected berries to eat and rested when she could.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds like this may be a classroom assignment... if so, you shouldn't be asking for help with it here, per site rules against helping folks do their schoolwork...
     
  11. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    This to me sounds like an everyday question.
    What insight do you have to think otherwise?
    Intrigued.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    no 'insight' other than the words i quoted from the op's opening post...

    'i was supposed to' certainly indicates it was not being done entirely willingly... how could anyone think otherwise?...
     
  13. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would take issue on two counts. First: the semi-colon is a quite respectable bit of punctuation. Too often reviled by people who don't understand its correct usage (present company excepted, Cogito), after many generations, it has fallen out of favor in general usage, most especially in fiction writing. I believe this is more an issue of poor education than poor punctuation. If anything, a semi-colon might be used before "... the fairy collected berries ...".

    Second: '... over river, through valleys and under trees' is a continuation of the thought in the first part of this sentence and, therefor, the semi-colon should not be used in this instance. Consider, "Into the mountains they walked - over rivers, through valleys and under trees; when the party stopped for eating, the fairy collected berries to eat."

    Personally, I would eliminate "... the party," it comes off as a bit cumbersome. Since the subject of the sentence presumably has not changed, I would simply refer to them as "they". There should be no confusion in the context of the sentence as to who "they" are. Also, I'd ditch the "for eating" since you have a repetition here that does not add to the impact of the passage. And, as already mentioned, I'd change the "... and rested" to "... then rested" or even eliminate that part of the sentence altogether.

    Finally, if you're not sure if you should use a semi-colon or not, I would recommend using two sentences (For the most part, you can't go wrong) and do some more studying up on the proper use of the semi-colon for the future.
     

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