1. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    questions

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by penhobby, May 25, 2008.

    Okay, don’t everyone kill me at once. I have certain questions that I cant wait for my English class in the spring to have answered.

    1) Is it ever appropriate to use a semicolon in a story- like setting? (I’ve used them, but it seems wrong, as though I should just use a period and end it altogether. Is this wrong?)

    2) Can someone please tell me the proper way to set up dialogue? This is an example of how I’ve been doing it.
    “I said not to move from that spot.” He reiterated
    “I said not to move from that spot,” he reiterated
    Are any of these correct? And how would you end a duologue that ended in a question mark?

    3) How far should the indentation of a paragraph recede into the paper? (One space or two or three)

    4) This is the last one …for now. Where do commas go? I’ve seen people stick them any old place. Someone once told me, that if you are not good at grammar, a good method to use is to place a comma where there are natural pauses in the flow of speech. (This is a major issue in my writing, so I’d really like an answer to this one.)

    I have many more questions, but I suppose this will do for now.
     
  2. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    1) I'm not sure what you mean here, but it's appropriate to use a semicolon providing the interval at which you place it requires one.

    2) It's always: "I said not to move from that spot," he reiterated.

    If you were to put an action after the dialogue, it would be: "I said not to move from that spot." He fixed the young man with a piercing glare.

    If you wish to place one long sentence in dialogue, it would look like this: "I said not to move from that spot," he reiterated, "otherwise there'll be trouble."

    If you were to write a question, it would be: "Why not?" he asked.

    One more point - don't use too many replacements for 'said'. Some can be used, but don't go overboard on long, unclear words.

    3) This doesn't really matter, but I usually use three.

    4) This person who told you to insert commas where there are natural pauses in speech is correct. Commas also rid your writing of long, rambling sentences.
    A few examples:

    Wrong: Commas prevent writing from becoming long rambling boring and unclear.
    Right: Commas prevent writing from becoming long, rambling, boring, and unclear.

    Wrong: Susie decided to leave Sam Lily and Beth with Anna whilst she went shopping because she did not see the point in dragging them around the shopping centre.
    Right: Susie decided to leave Sam, Lily, and Beth with Anna whilst she went shopping, because she did not see the point in dragging them around the shopping centre.

    Wrong: It was dark when Blair arrived home and he could barely see the house through the blackness.
    Right: It was dark when Blair arrived home, and he could barely see the house through the darkness.

    Hope I helped. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me.
     
  3. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    Lucy - thanks for #2 it always throws me.
     
  4. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    No problem!
    If you're apprehensive about trusting advice given to you by 12-year-olds in the future, just think of me. ;)
     
  5. Gone Wishing
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    Gone Wishing Contributing Member

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    As far as I know...

    A semi colon is used when you want to separate two sentences and not use a conjunction. For example:

    Timmy grabbed an apple; he threw it at Jane.

    as opposed to:

    Timmy grabbed and apple and he threw it at Jane.

    (Not the best examples, but the semicolon is also used to separate two ideas that are connected and/or don't make a complete sentence on their own).


    In the dialogue examples that you show, I believe that the second uses the correct punctuation.

    For paragraph indentation, I'm not sure if there is a specific rule, but I indent ten spaces.

    Punctuation does have specific rules for use, but what you have been told for comma use is a good guideline. Some other places where a comma should be used are (though I am sure there are more):

    Separating two adjectives (She is a tall, thin girl).
    When directly addressing a person (Hello, Mr Smith, how are you today?)
    When an expression interrupts the flow of a sentence (She was, as far as I could tell, scared of the spider).
     
  6. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    LOL!!!
     
  7. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Truth be told where truth is due. :)
    Hey, I'm 12. I gotta stand up for myself. Most people think I'm having them on when I correct their spelling/grammar. Goes to show what a lack of respect kids suffer nowadays. ;)
     
  8. LibbyAnn
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    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

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    I wanted to add a little bit more on commas...I have a minor in writing and have had to take a few too many grammar classes in my past! :) You've gotten some great advice so far, but the "rule" that you should place a comma where you would naturally pause is only a guideline. There are comma rules that you should follow! (This information comes straight from my grammar notes, just in case you were wondering!)

    - Use a comma two separate two INDEPENDENT clauses.
    Ex: (Right Way) I went to the grocery store, and I bought pears. (Each of those could be a separate sentence. Joining it with a conjunction requires a comma).
    Ex: (Wrong Way) Sally is tall, and thin. ("And thin" cannot make a complete sentence on it's own, so you don't need a comma there. ​

    - Use a comma for introductory clauses, phrases, or words that come before the main clause. Words like while, because, although, as, if, since, and when need commas after the phrase they are included in.
    Ex: (Right Way)Although I finished the test quickly, I was still worried that I did poorly.
    Ex: (Right Way)If you win, then I will pay you one hundred dollars.​

    - Use commas to separate three or more words in a series.
    Ex: (Right Way) I need to go to the store to buy milk, eggs, and cheese.
    Ex: (Wrong Way) I need to go to the store to buy milk, and cheese.​

    - Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun. Coordinate adjectives are equal when they describe a noun...one is not "superior" over the other. There are two easy tests to figure out if adjectives are coordinate or not. First, reverse the order they appear in. If the sentence still makes sense with them reversed, then they ARE coordinate adjectives. Second is to add "and" in between them. If the sentence still makes sense, they ARE coordinate adjectives and NEED a comma separating them.
    Ex: (Right Way - Coordinate Adjectives) She was a tall, slender woman.
    Ex: (Wrong Way - Non-coordinate Adjectives) I have a black, wool coat. (Notice that saying "I have a wool black coat" sounds wrong and you wouldn't say "I have a black and wool coat." Using the test helped me realize that these are non-coordinate adjectives and DO NOT require a comma between them). ​

    - DO NOT use a comma to separate the subject of the sentence from the verb. (Notice that in the examples, the subject and predicate are NOT independent clauses. If they were, they would NEED a comma).
    Ex: (Wrong Way) The most important thing to remember when cleaning the kitchen, is scrubbing the dishes well. ​


    There are a few more rules, but they get really in depth and require a lot of explanation. If I have time later, I'll come back and type them up too. :)
     
  9. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    As a general rule to help you on the use of colons and semicolons, you can think of them as the disc brakes of punctuation. They have better stopping power than a comma and a full stop.

    Al
     
  10. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    Wow! Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been given quite a bit to digest. Incidentally, I have been reviewing my posts, and I am beginning to realize just how bad they really are! Oh well at least I can fix them, though it might take some time.
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    When in doubt, I use the University of Purdue's Online Writing Lab as a reference; the URLs are saved in my "favorites" for quick reference.

    For commas - I particularly like the way they explain the dependent subordinate clause (no comma) versus the independent subordinate clause (comma).

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html

    Comma versus semicolon -

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_commacomp.html

    Hope these links help.

    .....NaCl
     
  12. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Brits beware: these rules do not apply so stiffly in British grammar.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    here are the rules for semicolons:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_overvw.html

    commas:

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html

    grammar and style [includes excellent rules/usage samples on punctuation]:

    http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/index.html

    use of colons and semicolons in fiction is optional, but i don't like to see them there, as in every case, a comma, period, or em dash will do a better job... they're more appropriate used in technical and scholarly non-fiction, imo... so, i heartily agree with your pov on that and no, it's not wrong...

    the first is incorrect... the second would be correct if you put a period after 'reiterated' but 'reiterated' isn't a good word choice, imo... 'said' is all that's needed there...

    a question in dialog is done like this:

    "Didn't I say not to move from that spot?" he shouted.


    the rule for mss is 5 spaces... or 1/2"... in published books it may vary, but the rules for ms submission are inflexible on that... your computer's word processing program should be set for the standard, so all you have to do is hit the tab key once...

    the wise writer will use them sparely, but not leave them out where clearly needed... i strongly suggest you get yourself a good punctuation guide... harry shaw's is the one i use, along with checking purdue uni's and jack lynch's excellent sites that you should keep in your favorites, as i do...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  14. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    I made some revisions on a few of the posts I created here. However I find myself to be a work in progress, learning something new every day. Everyone's patience and understanding with my writing is greatly appreciated.
     

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