Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by AVCortez, Apr 8, 2013.
To ; or not to ;, that is the question...
I don't mind them, and I believe that semicolons are sometimes more appropriate than periods. However, a lot of people here don't share that opinion.
If you know how to use it, use it.
Some here have said, time and time again, that semicolons should not be used in fiction; editors will reject your work if you use them. I subscribe to the New Yorker and Harper's magazines, as well as three science fiction magazines, and they all publish fiction, and I regularly see semicolons in the stories they publish.
It may be that YA publishers don't like semicolons, but the reality is that they're welcome in both mainstream and genre magazines.
I agree. There was supposed to be a poll here too, but my internet fried while I was setting it up.
By the looks of it, I can't edit in a poll?
I don't think I've ever seen semicolons in sci-fi or fantasy, which is why I've always assumed that semicolons are only found in general fiction. Looks like I was wrong. I guess the genre of the piece doesn't really matter.
I recently got around to reading A Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein). Semi-colons are quite common in that work.
It's my opinion that semicolons can greatly improve the rhythm of a story when chosen over choppy sentences. I love that little piece of punctuation. They're like a good seasoning; shouldn't be overused, but it's more enriching to have them than to be without. I've also never noticed an absence of semicolons in any of the stories I love.
I don't use them, but to be honest, it's because I really don't know how to use them properly. I sort of do, but to avoid the whole confusion, I just don't bother. In any case, it doesn't bother me to read fiction with semicolons, so I don't know what the big deal is.
Well. I should never be an authority on anything. But, I love the semi-colon. I use it very frequently. But, that's just me. XD
This is an edited snippet from a post I made yesterday.
I was confused about semi-colons and read discussions about them on this site. I was still unsure after that, so started looking for published examples. I"d say about 50% of the writers in 'Some of the Best from Tor.Com 2012 edition" used semi-colons.
I do use the occasional ; in my own short stories.
I don't know why people complain about it. Reminds me of people preferring past tense against present tense and vice versa. If anyone wants to know how to use a semi-colon, you can google "How to use semi-colons," but when you use them, it's to connect two independent clauses that are similar to each other.
An example would be "I checked my watch;it was eighty-thirty." Thing about the semi-colon I noticed is that it makes the reader read faster than if it were "I checked my watch. It was eight-thirty."
I agree that you should only use semi colons if you know how to use them. And maybe editors don't just reject semi colons on sight, but rather misused semi colons. Sometimes it's better to have separate sentences, sometimes it's better to use a dash, and sometimes it's better to use a comma with a conjunction. Know when which is appropriate. Also, I personally don't think it ever works in dialogue.
There are few good reasons to use ; in fiction. I would use it to separate items in a list, one or more of which contain commas. However, using a semicolon to separate independent cluses seems indecisive to me. Either commit to a full stop, or use a comma followed by a conjunction to join them. The loose coupling implied by a semicolon is already apparent from context and by consecutive placement in the same paragraph.
Is it wrong to use semicolons? No. Do writers, particularly novices, overuse or even misuse them? Absolutely. Can a writer underuse them? No.
You will find editors, including submissions editors, who dislike them, especially when used frequently. How importabt is your love of semicolons to you? Is it a great enough love you will risk annoying the editor evaluating your manuscript?
I love semicolons. I almost never see them in American fiction, and I sometimes see incorrect usage of commas in American fiction, where the sentence clearly cries out for a semicolon but still didn't get one. Therefore, I believe the assertion that they are a problem if you want to get your fiction published in America. Therefore, I'm trying to break myself of using them.
But I'm not happy about it.
I write genre fiction and use semicolons. When I'm writing, I try to keep my ear tuned to the rhythm of my words and how they effects the flow of the story. Sometimes, rather than break up a thought that's made up of two independent clauses by using a period or a conjunction, I'll use a semicolon. I feel that there is less of a pause than when using a comma and a conjunction, and more continuity than with a period. I've been doing this for many years and have never received a complaint from an editor.
That being said, most people don't use semicolons properly and would probably be better off leaving them alone.
I thought I saw a semicolon, used perfectly in one of your stories?... Maybe I'm getting mixed up, either way. Try this on for size. How to use a semicolon
It makes learning dinosaur.
When used correctly, semicolons are okay. Part of using them correctly however, means that if there is an easier way to phrase the sentence where one is not needed then, do it that way.
in fiction, a comma, period, em dash, or conjunction will do a better job, imo... for US readership, that is...
;s are much more acceptable/understood/well-and-often used in the UK...
American readers don't understand semicolons? Will they stop reading because they don't know what it is?
I've noticed a lot of people are saying that the semicolon, is good, as long as people know how to use it, I would have thought that, would have been pretty obvious, after all if someone doesn't, know how to use use any form of. Punctuation it becomes: an absolute pain to read.
Well played. I was a hair's breadth from clocking my computer screen.
I agree with AVCortex. Why avoid them - unless you don't understand how to use them?
It's not a matter of finding an easier way to phrase a sentence (do you mean easier for you to write or easier for your reader to read?) it's a matter of using the best tool for the job. The semi-colon is a useful form of punctuation and should be used when appropriate.
I used semicolons in my creative writing in the past, but now I find I can write flowing, connected sentences without having to use semicolons, and I keep them for rare use in academic writing. I really don't think they are particularly beneficial for novice writers. IMO avoid them, your writing will be stronger without.
Can anyone answer why writing is stronger without semicolons? People keep saying it, but nobody has explained why.
I suppose it has to do with the subtle rhythmic effect of a semi-colon. Something along the lines of, "It's really hard to do right, so don't do it until really good."
But I don't know. I use them -- I'm just a novice.
It's only stronger if the writer doesn't know how to use a semicolon.
Separate names with a comma.