1. Dragon4Love
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    Dragon4Love New Member

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    Understanding punctuation (;) or (:)

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Dragon4Love, Dec 11, 2009.

    I am having trouble understanding when to us ( : ) and when to use ( ; ). On the tests that I took at my college I noticed there is a difference. The standardized tests that I took got me a little confused. I did get a passing grade though.
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    A quick google search of "colon vs. semicolon" will clear this up for you.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Neither one should be used much, if at all, in fiction.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    imo, 'at all'!

    and yes, your first stop for the answers to questions like this should always be google... it's quicker and easier...
     
  5. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    What test was it, hun? If it was prose, then less is more (corpora search of semi colon and colon use show a low frequency count, but they are used). If it's a science paper, then they occur more frequently. What genre were they being used?
     
  6. Mister Micawber
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    Mister Micawber Member

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    Sorry, Cogito, but you will find me registering my protest every time you throw out that gratuitous blanket claim of yours. Colons and semicolons, along with all the rest of the punctuation available to us, have their uses in all written genres, and should not be turned into second-class citizens of fiction.
     
  7. Sound of Silence
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    Sound of Silence Member

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    It's wrong to say they shouldn't be used at all, but it's not technically right to say they should be given as much of a free wheel like the comma or full-stop. Unless you were after the effect that the semi-colon and colon give (longer pauses, list forms - punch-llines to jokes) the effect would be comical in fiction, so I personally think they just shouldn't be used as widely (and without understanding their functions). But if it came to a sentence that needed a colon etc, I would not grammatically change its form so that I didn't use it in a fictional piece.
     
  8. Anneke
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    Anneke New Member

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    Okay, what about here?

    Water drips from the ceiling and plops into a bucket at the foot of her bed; two inches with flecks of white plaster that glow.

    Is that right? A comma doesn't seem like enough. A period certainly isn't right because the second half isn't a complete sentence. An em-dash perhaps? A whole colon? I can't decide.
     
  9. cboatsman
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    cboatsman Senior Member

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    Anneke,

    There's a much larger thread that may help you. It discusses semicolon usage and is located at http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=28642.

    Caleb
     
  10. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Your example won't be clarified by punctuation, because it contains too many variant images. For example, it's not clear what "two inches" refers to. I think you're saying this:

    The bucket at the foot of her bed is now two inches deep with water dripping from the ceiling. Flecks of white ceiling plaster glow (at the surface) or (from the bottom) [I don't know if plaster sinks or floats].

    You just have too many things going on for a single image here, in my opinion. Don't be afraid to sort them out and linger on each portion enough to show exactly what you want your reader to see within a scene. Don't use the semicolon to stuff things all together. It's better used to show something parallel or opposed in meaning. Like: "The ceiling continued dripping water; the bucket filled with glowing plaster." Semicolons can be very distracting, especially in fiction, and should be used only for significant reasons.

    The em dash is usually used to emphasize something--to give an extra punch. Or to show an interruption--like here, for example--to a thought or image.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if the sentence had made better sense, a period would have been a better choice, since there's nothing wrong with using fragments here and there...

    like this:

    Water drips from the ceiling and plops into a bucket at the foot of her bed. Two inches deep so far, dotted with glowing flecks of white plaster.
     

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