1. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Semi-colon use or dash?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Tyler Danann, Dec 5, 2014.

    Daniel was visible now; hidden behind one of the outer pillar stones.

    Correct use or should I do this:


    Daniel was visible now - hidden behind one of the outer pillar stones.


    I've seen both types used in books but I'm wondering which one is more suitable?
    I know that the semi-colon is more widely used in non-fiction but some say it's good to use in fictional works also. Yet I though it was the dash that is more suitable for making statements etc.
     
  2. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Another Example:

    Her skull violently rocked to concussive forces that knocked her to the ground - sending her unconscious.

    Good use or would a simple comma substitute the - ?
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why not just use a comma?
     
  4. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    My third perusal.

    Jody triggered the spinning device though; meeting the creature's third swing with the glade - severing claw and wrist in a laser-like fashion.

    I've used both the semi colon and dash here...
     
  5. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Because I figured it would be using too many of them and for some things like statements within a sentence I've seen some authors use them...
     
  6. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Minstrel is right, comma is better.

    Both the above example and the other one that you posted are instances where the second part (hidden behind one of the outer pillar stones) is a sub-clause that amplifies the original sentence (Daniel was visible now) which is a complete sentence in its own right. As such, a comma is the appropriate punctuation.

    However, while "Daniel was visible now, hidden behind one of the outer pillar stones" is grammatically correct, it doesn't make sense that he's visible whilst hidden.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    A semi-colon is used to join two complete sentences together. The parts after your semi-colon aren't complete sentences, so a semi-colon doesn't work.

    I agree with minstrel that a comma seems like the punctuation to use.

    ETA: Ninja'd by Shadowfax, so - I agree with minstrel AND Shadowfax.
     
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  8. mad_hatter
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    mad_hatter Active Member

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    You should use a comma in each of your examples.

    I'm not too sure on the exact, clinical use of the semicolon, but I've always used it to link two separate sentences together. To use an example of something I wrote just yesterday -

    Now most of his business was conducted through the auction houses. He liked it that way; he could remain anonymous.

    I could've wrote "He liked it that way. He could remain anonymous." I've used the semicolon to link the two sentences together as they are directly related to each other.
     
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  9. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    What about the use of the dash (-) then? I've seen use this for when they want to go into more detail or state something within a sentence. Am I seeing things or is this just a quirk?

    Thanks.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can't just use punctuation randomly - like, if you've used 'too many' periods, you can't just switch to colons. Well, you CAN, but it will be meaningless and annoying to readers.

    I don't think you've seen serious writers using semicolons the way you have in your examples.

    And usually em-dashes are used either to indicate an interruption, or sometimes as a sort of parenthetical mark to, as you said, mark off 'statements within a sentence'. Like, if you had a thought--and you knew it was a good thought--you might use em dashes to set it off. So you probably could use em-dashes in the places you've indicated, but it seems like you'd be setting something off that doesn't really need to be emphasized that much. A comma is more subtle.

    Also, em-dashes are usually, although not always, used in pairs. Kind of goes along with the parenthetical idea, I guess.

    ETA: And AGAIN I'm cross-posting! Oh well, I think the em-dash answer applies to the most recent post.
     
  11. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Another little example:

    “We go in silently and steal it out from under them, if any of them move against us, end them. Remember who we are and that the ancestors are watching.” Ennias said softly. He was taking no chances; the second chamber-thing had slain Kaslar horribly with no hesitation.
     
  12. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Yep, I've seen the single dashes used too. The serious writers I saw were using em dashes singular not doubles.
    I've only seen semi-colons mostly in non-fictional books.

    I'll buzz a few more commas out... :)
     
  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay, so that one uses the semi-colon properly - two complete and closely related sentences being joined.

    Your first sentence, though, is a comma splice. You've got two complete sentences joined by a comma, which is incorrect. So you COULD use a semi-colon there, but two in one paragraph is a bit much. So you can either put a period instead of the first comma, or add a conjunction to show how the two sentences relate. Either:

    "We go in silently and steal it out from under them. If any of them..."
    or

    "We go in silently and steal it out from under them, and if any of them..."
     
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  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, sorry, the double-dash indicates an em-dash - the type-setter or whomever would go through and put em-dashes there. I don't know how to insert em-dashes that LOOK like em-dashes.

    ETA: there are three different dash-shaped punctuations - hyphen, en-dash, and em-dash. They each have their own uses!
     
  15. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quite often use a pair of dashes within a sentence, to separate some extra information from the main body, in much the same way that you use a pair of commas to separate out a sub-clause from the main sentence.

    1/ He rocked back on his heels, his eyes rolling upwards in his head, and then fell back against the wall.
    Here, the sub-clause is related to the rest of the sentence.

    2/ He rocked back on his heels - and this is the part where it all gets really weird - and then fell back against the wall.
    Here, the sub-clause is almost an authorial aside.

    The big difference is that I probably wouldn't use 2/ in fiction; your job as a writer is to be invisible.
     
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  16. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Is no. 2 showing the em dashes?
     
  17. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    Ok slightly off topic here, I've got some em dashes here:

    “Way Captain—” Nireth said falteringly. “I did not betray you. The Prophus— help—” The girl said barely coherent. But even as she was saying this Sigrun and Faern were bearing her away into the lightness.
     
  18. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I'm using the dashes in a similar way to how I'd use commas, but the content between the punctuation differs between the two examples.
     
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  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    It seems that you've got some paragraph issues here.

    I think (!) it would read more clearly thus:

    “Way Captain—” Nireth said falteringly, barely coherent. “I did not betray you. The Prophus— help—”
    But even as she was saying this Sigrun and Faern were bearing her away into the lightness.

    I hope I've kept the sense that you were trying to portray. Another attempt:

    “Way Captain—” Nireth said falteringly. “I did not betray you. The Prophus— help—”
    The girl was barely coherent.
    But even as she was saying this Sigrun and Faern were bearing her away into the lightness.

    You need a new paragraph whenever a new actor does something, and you shouldn't have speech in the middle of a paragraph.

    Edited to add: My second example introduces a fourth character to the scene - we now have Nireth, Sigrun, Faern and an unnamed girl.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
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  20. Tyler Danann
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    Tyler Danann Active Member

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    “Way Captain—” Nireth said falteringly, barely coherent. “I did not betray you. The Prophus— help—”
    But even as she was saying this Sigrun and Faern were bearing her away into the lightness.


    Is it ok to start a paragraph with 'But' though?
     
  21. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why not ?

    It's a matter of style and taste. It's generally considered bad to start a sentence with "And" or "But" (but that didn't stop you!) let alone a paragraph, but in this case it works. Lose the but from that sentence and it loses some punch (my opinion - and yours, too, judging by the fact that you wrote it).

    Starting sentences with "and" and "but" is something that children will do, so teacher will tell them that they must NEVER do it. It's one of those rules that you have to learn how and when to break. (It's so much more fun being a grown-up - there's nobody older to tell you what you can't do!)
     
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  22. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd substitute ellipses for the dashes in the above example.
    And, I'd never say falteringly.
     
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  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I agree. When using an em-dash in dialogue like this, it reads as if the speaker has been abruptly cut off. Ellipses indicate a trailing off or fading of speech. It depends on which effect the writer wants to convey.

    And falteringly ...urgh. No. I don't know that it's even a word. Nireth faltered, barely coherent, would work, if you want to keep this sentence structure.
     
  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    "Falteringly" is a word - it's in the OED. It's just a really clumsy one.
     
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  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If you uses the ellipsis I don't think you need to say falteringly or anything else. The punctuation itself demonstrates that he faltered.
     
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