1. jacktheknife
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    jacktheknife Member

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    Question about puncuation mark {;}

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jacktheknife, Oct 6, 2011.

    Fellow writers,

    I found out accidentally last night how if a word is left clicked on, then right clicked, an information box appears with not only the correct spelling, but if there was a green or a red line under the word signifying it is used incorrectly, it tells you why. I am really excited about this, which for me, is new and very important information. One thing I could use help on, please, is the period with the comma under it, {;} that thing. I have seen them and used to to know what they were called but my computer told me it was appropriate to use in a specific sentence in my manuscript. What are they? {it has been a log time since I was in school, and I actually never knew what they were for anyway} but being an author and writing my memoirs now, I think it's about time I learned. See example below, thank you.
    While I was in my coma I saw Cotton Joe, dead for ten years. I am not making this up every word is true; Joe's eyes were full of tears. God let us be together for a moment as he knew that I loved Joe dog so much I drank myself to death. I died on a motorcycle at 1:30 am and I lay in a ditch all night alone. I was still back there twenty five years ago!


    Thank you very much


    Jack the Knife
     
  2. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a semicolon. It's often used to link two complete sentences. In fact, I could have written the previous as: "It's a semicolon; it's often used to link two complete sentences." You most often do this when the two sentences have a tightly linked meaning. For example, you might use one in:

    I added an extra teaspoon of salt; Jeff always liked a lot of seasoning in his soup.

    Because the comment about the seasoning is explaining the reason for the salt, the semicolon makes sense. However, you probably wouldn't say:

    I added an extra teaspoon of salt; it was time to set the table.

    because the salt and the table don't have a tight enough link. (Unless, perhaps, it's established that the character always adds final seasoning just before dishing up, or something of the sort.)

    Your computer's advice doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and that's no big surprise, because a grammar checker can't possibly judge whether there's a linked meaning between the sentences. If I were to insert a semicolon in that sentence, I'd rewrite it as:

    I am not making this up; every word is true. Joe's eyes were full of tears.

    Semicolons can also be used for lists under certain circumstances, and maybe the grammar checker is confusedly suggesting that use. I never use them that way, so I'm not going to attempt to explain the rules.

    ChickenFreak
     
  3. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    The punctuation mark you are asking about is called the semicolon. In creative writing you probably never have to use one, and some writers think that using them is a bit pretentious. Skilled writers can use them to good effect, though. The most likely use in creative writing is probably to join closely related independent. The simple way to deal with independent clauses is to make them separate sentences. "I came. I saw. I conquered." If you separate them with commas instead then you have what are called run-on sentences: "I came, I saw, I conquered." Run-on sentences are technically permissible if the sentences are very closely related and short, but, even if that doesn't apply, if you use semicolons it's not a run-on sentence and is always grammatically permissible: "I came; I saw; I conquered." No argument. The difference is all down to pace: how the passage flows, and that needs a good ear that you will have to develop.

    There are other uses of the semicolon that a web search will tell you about, but I think for you the key is that if you don't understand them you don't actually need them, but as your grammatical skill advances they can be a tool that will make available more ways of expressing yourself.
     

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