1. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    Semi-Colons

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MissRis, Apr 21, 2012.

    I know the proper use for a semi-colon - as a 'super comma,' to join two independent clauses not conjoined with coordinating clause, and between independent clauses and semi-clauses linked with a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb.

    My question is: why would you want to join two independent clauses that could easily be separated by a period? Is it to add emphasis to the latter clause?
     
  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    I use it for independent clauses that work better joined without a conjunction. When I feel it works better, the reason is usually because of tone.

    Some people say there is no use for semi colons in fiction. I say there is a time and place for everything.
     
  3. Kyouka
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    Kyouka New Member

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    I appreciate semi-colons for the role they often play in taking sentences to great lengths. I've heard tell that using many of them is seen as pretentious by people, but never have I met these people; and were I to-day to be met with one such person, I would pity them for their blindness to the extravagant splendour of the semi-colon.
     
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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i always advise not using any colons or semicolons in fiction, since in all cases, a period, comma, em dash, or conjunction will do a much better job and not annoy or confuse fiction readers who aren't used to seeing them there...
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And this is a good thing?

    Most writers, especially new ones, would benefit by learning to write concisely. Marathon sentences are a blight, not a benefit.
     
  6. MissRis
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    MissRis Contributing Member

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    This still hasn't answered my question. Why would you want two join two independent clauses if they could be separated by a period? Is it to add emphasis? Or is it just a stylistic choice? I don't really ever use a semi-colon in this instance because it doesn't seem to be appropriate. But I was wondering if there was another reason.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    a semicolon separating two independent clauses implies a relationship between them closer than is normal for a pair of adjacent sentences.

    The difference is subtle, especially in a well-constructed paragraph. A paragraph should already bring the sentences comprising it together.

    I do concede that judiciously used, there's nothing inherently wrong with using semicolons. However, the distinction is sufficiently subtle that I don't see much need for a semicolon join in fiction. What is worse is that those writers who argue the most vociferously in favor of semicolons tend to use them poorly, and far too often.
     
  8. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    ^This.
     
  9. Kyouka
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    Kyouka New Member

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    If they flow well, with all joined clauses strictly relevant, long sentences can be very pretty. Poe used a lot of them, and a lot of semi-colons, and I always rather liked the way he wrote (you may not, and/or you may think it very dated and confusing for readers, but I think this in itself shows a lack of faith in readers' ability to read).
    Anyway, I have nothing against the full stop. Isaac Babel said, “No iron can stab the heart with such force as a period put just at the right place.”
    I believe that there's a time and a place for short, choppy sentences, just as there is for extremely long ones (and surely this is not exclusively outside of fiction...).
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Writers should feel free to use short sentences and long ones and middle-length ones. They should also feel free to use semicolons and colons and periods and conjunctions and everything else in the writer's toolbox. Of course, a craftsman must know how to properly use his tools, but those who say that certain tools should never be used (in fiction or wherever else) are, in my view, limiting the effects the craftsman can achieve.

    So go ahead and use semicolons. Use colons. Use ellipses and dashes and anything else you want. Know, obviously, where the should be used, but if you've been reading widely, you probably already do. Use short sentences and long sentences wherever they're appropriate. Practice using all your tools and master them, and your writing will only benefit from it.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love semicolons. I use them for two sentences that have a particularly close relationship. But if I someday want to submit a work of fiction for publication in the United States, I will sadly edit them all out.
     

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