1. TheWingedFox

    TheWingedFox Banned

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    Colon me....Valerie!

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by TheWingedFox, Dec 29, 2018.

    Can someone please clarify if this is all good and proper?

    So, I started reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (I love her style).

    In Chapter 1, there are at least four uses of the dreaded colon. I dread it. Don't ask why. I don't know. I still love her style, though.

    "It's one of those crummy towns prone to misery: A bus collision or a twister."
    "Not since Christmas: a chilly, polite call after administering three bourbons."
    "I knew it was coming: A group of scraggly teenage boys sat out front..."
    "Mr. Ronald J. Kamens had been proud when he told me: The townsfolk had pried out the rocks.."

    Now, unless I'm mistaken, example 2 should follow the colon with a capital A, as it does in the other examples.

    Is that correct?

    If not, some kind soul please tell me why.

    And, if this is a 9th edition paperback copy, published by Orion Books, by an established author, with (one presumes) a paid, professional editor to boot, what do people expect from the little people like myself, too broke to hire an editor, having to self-edit my own novels?
     
  2. TheWingedFox

    TheWingedFox Banned

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    Admittedly, the final question was simply rhetorical.
     
  3. Earp

    Earp Not Sorry Contributor

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    I'd say all four are incorrect. A colon used in that way should separate a complete sentence from a following phrase that illustrates or expands it. "There are three types of fruit: green, ripe, and spoiled." The following clause only begins with a capital letter if it is a complete sentence.
     
  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    tbh I can't remember the last time I used a colon in fiction (or a semi colon). Pretty much I use full stop, comma, and question mark, and whatever the posh name is for …
     
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  5. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    This is stylistic orthography, so there's no set of rules deciding what should and shouldn't be done.
    1. It's one of those crummy towns prone to misery: A bus collision or a twister.
    2. Not since Christmas: a chilly, polite call after administering three bourbons.
    3. I knew it was coming: A group of scraggly teenage boys sat out front...
    4. Mr. Ronald J. Kamens had been proud when he told me: The townsfolk had pried out the rocks.
    I'll do the easy ones first . . .

    (3) is correct in form. A colon can join two sentences. The second sentence should start with a capital.
    (4) is correct, almost? A colon can introduce speech, which should start with a capital, but the speech should be in quotes.
    (2) is weird. It seems to be a colon leading a reveal. But it doesn't work at all, IMO. Maybe the surrounding paragraph helps. (?) I guess I just don't understand what's being said. That doesn't say anything great about the sentence, but again, maybe in its paragraph it's okay. I don't know.
    (1) is wrong. It's a colon leading a list, but that means that "A" should not be capitalized. I don't think the sentence aligns correctly either. The emphasis is on the town and so "collision" and "twister" don't seem to connect to anything. The problem is (IMO, again) the phrase "one of those" which singles the town out rather than the miseries. My fix is:

    It's a crummy town prone to true misery: a bus collision, a twister.​

    And now the misery has emphasis. It still feels like colon overkill to me, but at least it's a working sentence. (An em dash would have been more sane.) I'm not sure why there was an "or" in the original. I guess it could go there, but then the sentence feels like it wants to be something else (and it probably should have been).

    The colon can be used for pause and emphasis. You hear the pause when reading the sentence, but there needs to be a reason for it.

    (small pause) COMMA -- SEMICOLON -- COLON -- PERIOD (great pause)​

    The emphasis belongs to whatever follows the colon. The problem with sentences that use colons everywhere is that they're writing by reveal. The author sets up a question and the answer's given like an uppercut. Which is great in moderation, but when it happens every page, it's just overwhelming. It makes the writing overly dramatic. The usages that really, truly fail are the times when the reveal is mundane. The reader doesn't care that much about what follows, so the colon feels like an insult, or like the writer's being a try-hard with fancy punctuation (and kind of pretentious). That's why I said (3) was the best sentence from above. A question is asked with the intro clause: "I knew it was coming." Because what is it? The reveal is a bit of a letdown though. I guess I'd have to know the whole context.

    I'm on your side with the overuse. Some authors can pull it off seamlessly. Most can't. And even those who can, like this one, can feel like they've gone overboard. But chalk it up to authorial style, I guess.
     
  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I know it's terribly out of fashion to say it, but I think the best authors are the ones whose style you don't notice. Like the best drivers are the ones whose driving you don't notice. You just enjoy the journey and pay attention to where you are, and wonder where you'll end up.
     
  7. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    At his place in the woods.
     
  8. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Looks like the author has escaped the bounds of orthodoxy. Or sub-editor 1 has said 'I love this rustic idiot...'
     
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  9. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Those were the kind whose driving I noticed. A couple of them liked to do wheelies.
     
  10. Andrae Smith

    Andrae Smith The Fool and the Master Contributor

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    I agree with this 100%
    I mean, I am a fan of fancy phrasing and linguistic flexing here and there, but it doesn’t need to be obvious or overbearing. If the author can say something simple and powerful, I’ll be pouring over that thought all of my life.
     
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