1. k.little90
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    k.little90 Active Member

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    Those darn {:} and {;}!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by k.little90, Oct 12, 2011.

    Anyone willing to help a girl out?

    I've always had big issues with using {:} and {;} properly. Would someone be willing to explain the rules of each to me? I would appreciate it :)

    And yes, I could google it... but where's the fun in that? I like interaction!
     
  2. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    A semicolon is generally used to join two sentences together. The sentences should have some link, so don't join just any two sentences together. When you want to use it, put it in place of a period and uncapitalize the first word of the clause that follows. "I like meatloaf; it goes great with ketchup." You could also use it to separate items in a list, just like you would a comma. I'd only do this if the items are long or if the items themselves contain commas, but that's just a personal rule of thumb.

    A colon has a bunch of uses. Obviously in time (2:15) or Biblical references (John 4:10). You could use them to introduce a list. "Here is my shopping list: eggs, cereal, and milk." You could use it to elaborate on a pont. "I'm not a big fan of Belle: she's very opinionated." There are probably other uses, but I can't think of them off the top of my head.
     
  3. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Semicolon is used to connect two ideas; it has less emphasis than a period but more than a comma. Think of a period as a pause for breath and a comma as a quick break, the semicolon is the love child of these two.

    Check This Out

    The colon is used as a preface to a list, or for emphasis of a single noun.
    These three crimes are punishable by death: murder, arson, and jaywalking.
    The robber never expected what was behind him: the smiling policeman.
    Richard Nixon: Not a Crook
     
  4. TheWritingWriter
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    TheWritingWriter Senior Member

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    One rule towards using colons { : } is that when you do use them, you don't use them after a verb when making a list.

    Example of what TO DO: Shelly is very: compassionate, kind, stubborn, and confident.
    Example of what NOT TO DO: For our camping bring: a tent, a water bottle, and a jacket.

    I don't know why that is the way it is, but that's just the rule I've always been taught, & when I do it on paper I get points taken off.
     
  5. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Both of your examples are of what not to do. If you follow a verb with an adverb, you still do not use a colon. The rule also includes prepositions.

    Example of using the colon incorrectly.
    The run includes: two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course. OR The run consists of: two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course.

    Correctly.
    The run includes three stages: two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course. OR The run consists of three stages: two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course.

    The reasoning behind this is because the sentence flows perfectly well without the inclusion of the colon in the incorrect examples. For example, The run includes two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course. Or, The run consists of two hills, a marsh, and an obstacle course. Or, "Shelly is very compassionate, kind, stubborn, and confident."

    However, there is also an exception to this. If you use namely, for example, and similar expressions, you do not use a colon, but a comma.

    For example, "Shelly is a lot of things, namely, compassionate, kind, stubborn, and confident." Without namely, it would be, "Shelly is a lot of things: compassionate, kind, stubborn, and confident."

    Hope this helps.
     
  6. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    Raki, good examples. With using the colon to introduce something, remember that there always is an independent clause preceding the colon. The clause proceeding the colon can be dependent or independent, depending on the usage.

    Semi-Colons are a little bit trickier, Imo. Use a semi-colon, in place of a comma or period, to separate two relevant sentences. You don't necessarily have to un-capitalize the first word after every semi-colon--you can capitalize or not, but you have to be consistent in that choice throughout your writing. Also, be careful with joining sentences together with semi-colons, especially sentences compounded with commas. Most of the time it's better to clean out commas from your writing to convey a clearer thought. That being said about repetitive commas, it can be applied to semi-colons as well, so try and minimalize its usage.

    Semi-colons are invalid if placed before a coordinating, subordinating conjunction. You can, however, place it before transitional phrases or conjunctive adverbs.



    Example of semi-colon usage
    : The high school boy's basketball team won districts; therefore, the team advanced to regionals.
     
  7. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    Ugh, I can't type fast without having spelling errors! I hate my clumsy fingers.
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that's pretty much it, although I wouldn't use a colon in your Belle example, I'd use a semicolon. "I'm not a big fan of Belle; she's very opinionated." I once read an explanation that said that what comes after a colon delivers on a promise made before it. "I'm not a big fan of Belle" doesn't really promise anything else. A more certain use of the colon would be "This is why I'm not a big fan of Belle: she's very opinionated." That rule doesn't apply to the time and Bible reference cases you give, of course.
     
  9. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    I agree.
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know of any case in modern English where you can leave a capital after a colon in a normal sentence (unless there's another reason for a capital, for instance if the word after the colon is a proper noun). In some other uses of the colon -- for instance, introducing a bulleted list -- it is indeed a stylistic choice whether to capitalise.
    Careful! Commas often make thought clearer! Only clear them out if they're not doing any good.
    You don't know yet whether the questioner tends to underuse or overuse semicolons! Noah Lukeman's excellent The Art of Punctuation says that overuse of the semicolon suggests pretentiousness and a need for simplification, true, but also that underuse suggests a reluctance to take chances with language and a tendency to less well-crafted prose with less nuances of style and language. There's no need to minimise their use; the challenge (as always) is to get the balance just right.

    Incidentally, he says that overuse of the colon indicates an overly dramatic writer or one who likes to tie things into neat packages. Underuse suggests a writer who is "less seasoned, unable or unwilling to experiment with nuances", with a tendency to be boring. He suggests that overuse is a better sign than underuse because the person who overuses them is at least writing with the reader in mind and is trying to "grapple with their craft, who are interested in bettering their writing and using every tool at their disposal."


    Semi-colons are invalid if placed before a coordinating, subordinating conjunction. You can, however, place it before transitional phrases or conjunctive adverbs.



    Example of semi-colon usage
    : The high school boy's basketball team won districts; therefore, the team advanced to regionals.[/QUOTE]
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know of any case in modern English where you can leave a capital after a colon in a normal sentence (unless there's another reason for a capital, for instance if the word after the colon is a proper noun). In some other uses of the colon -- for instance, introducing a bulleted list -- it is indeed a stylistic choice whether to capitalise.
    Careful! Commas often make thought clearer! Only clear them out if they're not doing any good.
    You don't know yet whether the questioner tends to underuse or overuse semicolons! Noah Lukeman's excellent The Art of Punctuation says that overuse of the semicolon suggests pretentiousness and a need for simplification, true, but also that underuse suggests a reluctance to take chances with language and a tendency to less well-crafted prose with less nuances of style and language. There's no need to minimise their use; the challenge (as always) is to get the balance just right.

    Incidentally, he says that overuse of the colon indicates an overly dramatic writer or one who likes to tie things into neat packages. Underuse suggests a writer who is "less seasoned, unable or unwilling to experiment with nuances", with a tendency to be boring. He suggests that overuse is a better sign than underuse because the person who overuses them is at least writing with the reader in mind and is trying to "grapple with their craft, who are interested in bettering their writing and using every tool at their disposal."
     
  12. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    With the use of capitals, I incorrectly referred that to semi-colons--it should be for colons. And yes, you can have the choice of capitalizing or not with the starting word after the colon, if the word belongs to a complete sentence. If the word is a proper noun, then capitalization is a must. When a list or an appositive proceeds the colon, then it remains lower capitalized. What you said about the bulleted is partially correct--it is a stylistic choice if the bulleted list is compromised of incomplete sentences, but if complete, then it is correct to capitalize the beginning and use ending punctuation.

    I understand that commas make thoughts clearer, in a lot of cases, but it can do the opposite--confuse. Semi-colons can provide specific emphasis, but overusing semi-colons(after every other sentence or two) or other punctuation shows a rigid use of grammar. Then again, it really depends on how well you use them. With the topic of commas, I'm not talking about sentences with one, two, or even three commas--I'm talking about sentences involving a series of things that would be more appealing to the eye by removing and replacing the commas with semi-colons. I doubt you like reading a book with sentences looking like paragraphs due to it's extension from commas, or paragraphs ridden with semi-colons or colons.

    I'm sorry, but when it comes to semi-colons and colons, overuse is not desirable for an appealing work of literature. That's just my opinion though. I shouldn't have advised the questioner to rid excesses; I agree with you. She may not even overuse in the first place. You're right--achieving the right balance is the goal. I should have wrote something along the lines of "try using other punctuation for better amplification, emphasis, etc, if there is an excessive use of a particular punctuation mark."

    If you thought the word "minimalize" incorrectly spelled by putting minimise in italics, then you are wrong in doing so. Minimalize is a word, not one on this sites spell checker, though.

    Thank you for your critique. I do see my errors.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    [Citation needed] as they say. I've never come across a situation where that is allowed: a colon is not a major stop. But US usage might differ.

    It depends how it's done. I enjoy reading Charles Dickens; I don't enjoy reading Virginia Woolf. The difference is not how many commas, semicolons or colons they use, it's the overall clarity of the sentences they build with them (which has more to do with whether clauses are coordinated or subordinated and whether or not subordinated clauses are embedded).
    No, I did it for emphasis. The minimum number of colons and semicolons is zero because it's always possible to rephrase to avoid them, but zero is not necessarily the best number.
     
  14. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    Well, I don't have a citation for that because I'm just pulling out what I learned from my college English courses. You can do research to reveal the validity of my statements regarding capitalization.

    I agree with you that it depends on how it's done. I pretty much stated what you explained in the 3rd sentence of my 2nd paragraph.

    -That was just a biased statement based on my opinions. I shouldn't generalize like that, and I don't have a problem reading sentences that have a lot of commas, semi-colons, and colons, unless it was done so inadequately efficient. I just find reading an authors work with a balanced amount of punctuation to be more pleasurable, but that's me, and it's my error for generalizing.

    I see. I understand that you shouldn't aim to completely erase a certain punctuations, such as a semi-colon or colon, but in excess, it is better to minimalize them through rephrasing, etc.
     
  15. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    This is incorrect in US usage. Semicolons can be used before coordinating conjunctions and are sometimes recommended if the independent clauses have internal punctuation.


    I agree with dcavanaugh1 to a degree with capitalization after a colon. If you have two or more complete sentences following the colon (not just one), you capitalize.

     
  16. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    I know there are exceptions, such as the latter, but I was just applying the rule in normal circumstances. I didn't know that it was correct usage to put semi-colons before coordinating conjunctions in normal circumstances. Did you mean conjunctive adverbs? If no, then I might be ignorant on that rule then.

    That rule applies to two or more sentences, though. Maybe the rules apply differently to one because I remember learning this rule in my English textbooks in college.
     
  17. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    No, I didn't mean conjunctive adverbs, but they work, as well. I will say that it's not incorrect to use semicolons before coordinating conjunctions. In the majority of sentences, a comma will work; but if the sentence is heavily loaded with commas due to phrases, dependent clauses, series, etc., it is usually better to use a semicolon instead of a comma before the conjunction. Another way to look at this too ... It is not incorrect to begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction (and, but, yet, or, so, etc.); why would it be if you used a semicolon?


    Oh, then I disagree with you. :) If only a single, complete sentence follows the colon (of which the colon is pointing out), you lowercase it.
     
  18. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    Yeah, I comprehend and agree with what you are saying. I know that it is correct to use a semi-colon before a conjunction, if the proceeding sentence has internal punctuation; but I am wondering if it is proper to use in informal writing, which is what I meant with "normal circumstances." I agree with your example, but it is whether that rule is determined by the context of formality that I am wondering. Just as it would not be proper, in formal writing, to not contract "it" with apostrophe "s." It is, though, allowed in informal English.




    In all honesty, I think the rules of capitalization with colons are subjective. I did some research, and the rules vary from one source to another. In my opinion, I don't think it would be incorrect use of grammar to capitalize or lower case the first word of an independent clause, proceeding a colon.
     
  19. dcavanaugh1
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    dcavanaugh1 New Member

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    Eh, only in that one specific circumstance( independent sentence after a colon).
     
  20. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    Yes, the use of the semicolon is fine in formal and informal writing.

    Okay, looking into this a bit further, I'll agree that the rules vary and it is a matter of style. AP Style says to capitalize if an independent clause follows the colon. The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage says only to capitalize if the clause before the colon is an introductory element (e.g., Think: We are good people, and we can do great things.). Modern Language Association style guide says, "A rule or principle after a colon should begin with a capital letter," but otherwise, it remains lowercase (unless quotation, proper noun, and so on that is consistent across the board). Chicago Style, which I've already stated, says only to capitalize if two or more sentences or a quotation follows. Strunk and White's The Elements of Style suggests that only a quotation needs to be capitalized following a colon (e.g., Her heated stance reminded me clearly of what she said last week: "You will not take my children, Mr. Duchane.").

    Above all, whichever you decide, I would say to stay consistent. Personally, I'll be following a little more closely to CMOS and Strunk and White's The Elements of Style here because they make the most sense to me. AP Style and The New York Times style are mostly for news writing. MLA is mostly for formal writing. CMOS blends into these areas, as well, but also sticks its toes into creative writing. One reason I might say not to capitalize is to prevent confusion, meaning if it was capitalized the reader might believe the first and second sentence following the colon are the explanatory elements of that colon instead of just the first (e.g., But you're right: It definitely varies from source to source. It could be a long time before everyone agrees on one set way.). If it is lowercase (e.g., But you're right: it definitely varies.... It could be...), they will not have that problem, likewise if it is surrounded by quotes.
     
  21. walshy12238
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    walshy12238 Senior Member

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    The semi-colon is what it looks like: it joins two sentences together, but as a mixture of a comma and a full stop.
    And the colon can do what I did in the first sentence of the post, or it can be used as a start of a list - "I want you to buy a few things: a banana, an apple and an orange."

    I hope that helps you :)
     
  22. dcavanaugh1
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    Raki, I learned quite a bit on semi-colon and colon usage because of our conversation. I was a bit tight on my personal use of semi-colons, but now--upon deeper understanding-- I feel like my idea of its usage is broadened. I tend to stay strict to the rules of informality or formality in writing, probably due to my inexperience in it, but now I realize those can be bypassed, if--in particular cases-- it is more effective for the writer to use.

    Thank you, Raki, for your input.
     
  23. katek
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    katek Member

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    Here is my take on it. Lyn Truss explains this well in 'Eats Shots and leaves'.

    colons and semi-colons are BOTH used to separate two independent clauses. (Commas should NOT be used for this! Therefore, a comma, correctly used, is not simply a pause wherever the writer fancies - lots of people get this wrong: it is called 'comma splicing', putting a comma between independent clauses and it is really, really not very classy.)

    Colons - the second clauses explains in more depth the first clause. (As explained above, they can also be used for lists.)

    e.g. I just love cats: I think they so are cute and cuddly.

    Semi-colon - the second clause has equal weight and very similar meaning to the first.

    e.g. I just love cats: they are my favourite ani
     
  24. katek
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    katek Member

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    mals.
     
  25. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As I've mentioned elsewhere, there is a generally accepted exception if the clauses are very short. The usual English rendering of Julius Caeser's famous comment "I came, I saw, I conquered" contains three independent clauses, but the commas are not usually regarded as errors.
     

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