1. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    When to use dash

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Stammis, Mar 28, 2016.

    I have two questions; I am using the semicolon and the dash correctly?

    And does the last sentence make sense, in the context of; everyone has lost their memories expect the MC, and he hasn't told anyone about it.

    But today, even planet watching was unable to cheer him up. The many failures of finding a profession had alienated him from the others. And without a function, you are considered a strain on the town's resources, a waste of space. That is what they kept telling him anyway. He looked up at a hill, the hill where he came from and wondered why he was sent here, how he was sent here. His legs moved on their own as if drawn to his place of birth; it might as well be since it was his, and everyone else’s, earliest memory - as far as everyone else was concerned…
     
  2. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    ALL THE TIME. I love the dash.

    I'm not a punctuation expert (you need @ChickenFreak) but pretty sure your first semicolon use is incorrect, the second correct and the dash fine.

    The last sentence doesn't make sense to me.
     
  3. Stammis
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    Stammis Contributing Member

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    Dang!

    Great!

    Great!

    Dang!

    Got two out of four right ;)
     
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  4. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    I'm no expert either but it seems like most times a period and a new sentence is better used than a semicolon. I used to try semicolons all the time until one of my professors told me to knock it off. For some reason, it seems that since the semicolon and the colon aren't used often, writers like the idea of using them just for the sake of doing something unusual.
    If you just read the part after the semicolon you have a complete sentence already.

    You also have a sentence starting with"And" which is a no no. :)

    His legs moved on their own as if drawn to his place of birth. It might as well be since it was his, and everyone else’s, earliest memory. As far as everyone else was concerned…
     
  5. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Starting a sentence with "And" is fine, contrary to what some teachers tell their classes.
     
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  6. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Okay .. I googled it & you're correct.
    Although, it makes me wonder. If enough people think it's wrong then won't it stand out as an error in the minds of many readers?
    Since language is organic if enough people say something is right or wrong then doesn't it become so?
    I'm not trying to argue the point. Only curious.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    Yep, some people will think it's wrong.

    But I disagree that it becomes wrong if people think it is.
     
  8. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    This is changing the direction of what you are asking for, but let me advocate for simplicity in the flow of sentences. Yes, you can use a semi-colon as you have towards the end of your paragraph and I suppose you also could use dash (although I am partial to the double dash w/o space between words as in "memory--as"), but why would you want to?

    Isn't it simpler (and doesn't it read easier) to write: His legs moved on their own as if drawn to their place of birth. They might as well have been since it was his and everyone else's earliest memory.

    My larger point is this: Don't use punctuation to bail you out from crafting clearer sentences. I know in my own writing, many times when in the first write I used semi-colons, when I went back and revised, I most often have changed that complex sentence to 2 sentences--but not always, I will admit.
     
  9. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    As someone who overuses semicolons according to my wife and lead editor, I find your usage correct, also dashes or ... . Read it out loud. If you would pause at the - or ... longer than you would for a comma, then I think the usage is appropriate. Also the trailing ... indicates something is unfinished, trailing off, in this case his thought. Also fine. Use of And? Absolutely forbidden in technical writing which is my primary background. But literature captures the way people speak, and we start with "and" all the time. The only flaw I found in that sentence was the switch from third to second person and back again. I would suggest "a person" instead of "you". The semicolon could be either that or a period, though in your case I would use a period. My wife has beaten into my head that semicolons should be used for contrasting or contradictory thoughts. "It should be good; but that wasn't what was happening." again a pause a little longer than a comma, not as long as ....
     
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  10. Midge23
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    Midge23 Member

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    It should be good; but that wasn't what was happening.

    Got to just say that I think the semicolon is used incorrectly here

    It should be good, but that wasn't what was happening.

    A comma comes before a coordinating conjunction in this example.

    Regarding the OP, I think the semicolon in your second paragraph is incorrect, the rest is fine.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hyphens, En Dashes, Em Dashes in the CMoS is worth a read through.
     
  12. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    You sound just like my wife!
     
  13. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Round about draft sixty most of my pieces are littered colon, semi-colon, semi-colon leads to a semi-colon, colon, dash, colon, semi-colon, very sad ending, THE END.

    I look at it, maybe three months after rejection, three months after I posted it away to some man in his house [and I cry]. So at this critical, six, nine month junction, or three year junction sometimes, I take out every single semi, colon, dash, and any weird constructions that gave me only - only me, only me - some pleasure alone. Freaks must always leave your story, the room.

    Then, my guidance would be, possibly two semi-colons are allowed - in total, can remain. Dashes, probably allowable all over the place, but not on the first page. Also, remove by death all of your am-dram weakness, your repetitions, make yours a world devoid of 'justs'/'yets,' 'ings' and 'wases,' the monsters of deep space, make yourself a professional, as we on ww, the wf all know [it].
     
  14. Midge23
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    Midge23 Member

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    Stop spending all your day off writing and clean the bathroom, is what mine sounds like.
     
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  15. Solar
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    Solar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I generally use it when I need to chill. I'll pop dash in me herbal vape and float along
    for the rest of the evening.
     
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  16. United
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    United Member

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    There are three types of "dashes":

    1. Hyphen
    2. Em-dash
    3. En-dash

    In this case, you are talking about the Em-dash (there's so much to say about all three, but for now I'll just explain a few things about the em-dash.)

    1. There should be no spaces before an em-dash and after the em-dash
    EX:

    Britney Spears--a very beautiful woman and an idol to many youths--is a great music artist.

    OR

    Britney Spears is super pretty--not.

    (NOTE: On here, it looks like the em-dash are two smaller dashes combined. It's not. You can look up on Google on how to make an em-dash onto your Microsoft Word document.)

    2. The phrase or phrases that are included inside the em-dash(es) are nonessential. They do not pertain to the larger story. They are information that is additional, kind of like side remarks (as you can see in the Britney Spears example.)
     
  17. LostThePlot
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    LostThePlot Contributing Member

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    I don't like the use of dashes. I just don't. Hyphens and en-dashes have their place as actual punctuation but em-dashes are something that really could be replaced with almost no effort with something else that actually scans well and that's almost certainly a good idea. If you want to use parenthesis then you should use parenthesis. Alternatively you are free to avail yourself of standard English and delineate linked clauses with commas and semi-colons, the way a normal person would. If you want to show elision or interrupted speech then ellipsis is your friend.

    I think there's a tendency in writers to seek out exotic and exciting forms of punctuation because we have rarefied tastes. Things like interobangs and irony marks interest us as a potential new tool. But in most circumstances punctuation really shouldn't be making a statement. Bog standard, boring English that is transparent to the reader is, I think a better option.
     
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  18. Feo Takahari
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    Feo Takahari Active Member

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    Used sparingly, em-dashes can be handy because they don't scan well. I've said before that I like to create a rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Commas provide a slight pause, but generally maintain the rhythm, while periods can be a good opportunity to change rhythms. Em-dashes break the rhythm entirely, making them useful when you want to surprise the reader or introduce new elements that unsettle the established order. Of course, they become redundant if you use them so often that you never build up a rhythm in the first place. (Compare italics, which also draw the reader's attention to specific statements, and also become obnoxious when overused.)
     
  19. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Contributor

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    What does "scan well" mean? :S

    Em-dashes aren't exotic or exciting. They're everywhere! Semi-colons / colons stand out to me far more than any kind of dash.
     
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  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In dialogue, em-dashes and ellipses do totally different jobs. The em-dash is for when someone is interrupted or stops speaking abruptly, the ellipses is for when they trail off.

    Sometimes the goal of writing is to be smooth and write "the way a normal person would" (?!?). Sometimes the goal is to be jerky and hop around, and em-dashes are great for that.

    And I'm reluctantly forced to agree with @Tenderiser - there's nothing exotic about an em-dash!
     
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  21. Elven Candy
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    Elven Candy Contributing Member

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    I agree with BayView about the ellipses and m-dash. Both are handy to have in the tool belt, and an ellipses can't exactly replace an m-dash. I use both the ellipses and m-dash a lot in my story. I don't know if they're overused, but if they are, I'll worry about it in the second draft. It's really hard for me as a new writer to figure out what's OK because it's my writing style, and what's not OK because it's just obnoxious. So far, my beta readers haven't complained about my uses, but they're fairly laid back anyway. I've seen a lot of stuff in really great books that I'd never have thought was OK, but it read really well because it was just that author's style.

    On the other hand, my beta readers have mentioned that a semicolon is weird in a story book, so I'm going to have to go through and eliminate a few of those . . .
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  22. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    Jesus, mine TOO. (well not wife). I've been getting in a lot of trouble lately.


    Uh huh. I see what you did there lol. Gotta watch out... they are exploding in people's faces!
     
  23. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, it's like implying that this sentence is an afterthought. At least, that's the way I interpret it.
     
  24. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    The way I learned it...

    A semicolon is used to connect two closely-related sentences.

    An em-dash is used similarly to a comma, but in places where you want to imply a longer pause. It's also used in dialogue to indicate that one speaker is interrupting another.
     
  25. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    Yes, a semi-colon is ONLY used to connect two complete sentences. If you cannot replace the semi-colon with a period and still have two complete sentences, don't use it. A colon is only used when there aren't two complete sentences. I'm not familiar with absolutes when it comes to dashes. I sometimes use dashes and ellipses interchangeably which is probably wrong. :p

    But I'm right about how to use a semi-colon so you can trust me on that part. ;)
     

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