Is this a comma splice?

Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by victo, Jun 3, 2015.

  1. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,961
    Likes Received:
    11,838
    I have thought about it. That's why I posted.

    I think there are definitely times I've heard a colon in speech. For example:

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."
    What other punctuation would convey that same sense of expectation and connection?
     
    jannert likes this.
  2. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Well, really, in writing novels there's no such thing as simply a "dash." You might be meaning a hyphen. Here are the three kinds of dashes:

    1. Hyphen (single dash) connects two words for a variety of reasons. One of the most notables ones is to connect two closely related adjectives that PRECEDE what they modify. For instance, "the well-written book." (if they don't precede what they modify, there's no hyphen, as in "the book was well written.")

    2. EM dash (two consecutive dashes) usually stands in for a comma or parenthesis to separate out phrases in a sentence.

    3. EN dash connects periods of times, such as 1990-2015, etc.
     
    jannert likes this.
  3. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    "I've read in some how-to books that you should 'never' use colons or semi-colons in dialogue ...that people don't speak in semi-colons or colons!"

    OMFG...idiots, idiots, idiots (not you; the person who wrote those how-to books). What tends to happen is, amateurs overuse certain punctuations, or worse, they don't really understand how to use it so they frequently misuses it. Semicolons are the biggest problem in that regard. So, non-amateurs tell them to stop using that punctuation and, since they're amateurs, they go all-in on the feedback. In reality, what the non-amateur was probably saying was "don't use it because you don't know how to and it's simpler just to write it a different way until you've mastered it," or "don't overuse it...moderation is key." But what they hear is "it's bad, bad bad" and then they turn around and preach that like it's doctrine, which is asinine. You see this kind of thing a lot. Another example is when someone writes a story with a "once upon a time" format. Maybe a beta reader reviews it and thinks, "in this case, this doesn't work as well as writing it another way," and then the author takes this as "you can never write a story in a once upon a time format."

    In summary, it's more than OK to use semicolons though, given a choice, em dashes are often more common in fiction writing.
     
    jannert likes this.
  4. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    I kind of went on a rant in response to the theory that semicolons are never to be used. In reading your reply, though, I should mention that I don't have a problem if authors choose not to use them. Wanted to clarify that :). I think too often writers think we are bound by them, that there is one way to do something, when in fact they are tools at our disposal. That means we ought to know everything we can about them, not necessarily to have perfect grammar and punctuation, but in order to use what we think is the most effective measures in bringing clarity and effect to our readers. NOT using a kind of punctuation is a method, as well and, in the right context or style, can be very effective.

    https://authorphilpartington.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/the-rules-of-grammar-and-novel-writing/
     
    jannert likes this.
  5. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,218
    Likes Received:
    4,124
    Ah, so when I say "dash", that is the em dash. I've seen the em dash as -- but in Word, I tend to just let it automatically lengthen, from this: -

    To this: –

    So it'd look something like this: "She pulled a face – what was that smell?"

    I've never used the -- version. And an experiment in Word just now shows me that Word just converts -- into – anyway. So what's with the double dash (--)?

    And yep I knew about hyphen - although didn't know about the rule with the whole before/after thing. But what about when this happens?

    eg. The fabric was feather-light.

    Surely feather and light should be hyphenated?

    "The fabric was feather light" looks and feels very wrong to me.
     
    jannert and The Mad Regent like this.
  6. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Oh, no, the lengthened dash and double dash are the same things. Technically, the lengthened dash is more accurate, I think, but to get Word to plug that in you type it as a double dash.

    And no, an em dash isn't a dash, per se lol. A dash is just the mark. A hyphen is technically a dash but, used as a hyphen, it's a hyphen (if that makes sense :)).

    Regarding "feather-light," yes, you'd hyphenate it, but not because of a different rule. More than that, depending on the dictionary you go by, feather-light can either be one word with no hyphen ("featherlight", as per dictionary.com), or simply a hyphenated word ("feather-light", as per the oxford online dictionary).

    I tend to think it looks weird without a hyphen, and the argument that works here is that you ALSO use hyphens to connect words when they are linked to express one idea, such as mother-in-law and X-ray. Feather-light fits that.

    Hope that helps :). (For more on the subject, if interested: https://authorphilpartington.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/grammar-talk-hyphens-vs-em-dashes/)
     
    Mckk and jannert like this.
  7. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    By the way, I wasn't implying you hadn't thought about the issue. I just meant 'think about what I'm saying here,' as in 'see, this is what I mean.'

    I won't argue the point, because I think an author can do whatever they please with dialogue. However, I would point out your example is not dialogue. That was Martin Luther King's speech, made in front of thousands of people, presumably read off a sheet of paper. MLK wasn't chatting to his wife over dinner when he spoke those words. That was oratory. (And memorable, too.)

    I think if you start presenting ordinary fictional dialogue in that way, your characters MAY begin to sound as if they are speechifying too. That's why I don't use that sort of punctuation, in the course of normal dialogue. But if that works for you better than it does for me, fine. I applaud your skill. :)
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    I don't know if it works on your computer, but on my Mac I can get a lengthy m-dash ( — ) by hitting shift-alt-and the dash key. I think the dash presented as -- is a throwback to the days of typewriters. You know, back when you hit the space bar twice after each full stop? :twisted:
     
    Mckk likes this.
  9. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Right, but you still make the extended dash for an em dash by hitting dash twice :). Sheesh. I'm getting nailed on technicality :p.
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    Actually, I was just letting @Mckk know that you CAN get an extended dash, if you have that shift-alt-dash facility. It's very handy if you're formatting for self-publication.
     
  11. outsider

    outsider Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2012
    Messages:
    989
    Likes Received:
    631
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    You mean we're not supposed to do that anymore? I didn't get the memo.
     
    Catrin Lewis and jannert like this.
  12. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,218
    Likes Received:
    4,124
    One more dashy question on za dashes - are you supposed to have a space before and after the em dash? :) @Phil Partington @jannert
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    If you don't put a space before and afterwards, the words can bunch up in an odd way if the line is short. (If you read your Kindle books in a large font format.) If you do put spaces, the whole thing can look quite strung-out, which again, doesn't look great in a large font format.

    I have no idea what the accepted convention on this is.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  14. The Mad Regent

    The Mad Regent Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    421
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    In the old days with type-writers and such there was no space, but with modern word processors people use spaces between the word and the dash. I believe it's pretty much the standard these days.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  15. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Nope.
     
  16. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Do you have an example? I've never seen it written with spaces in any professional document (or novel, for that matter). Unless I'm reading your reply wrong.
     
  17. The Mad Regent

    The Mad Regent Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    421
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    Are you reading older novels? It should be set out like that in most modern novels. I'm 100% sure because I just double checked it in Stephen King's Mr Mercedes.
     
  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    12,939
    Likes Received:
    7,420
    Location:
    California, US
    When I'm editing, I still leave it without the spaces. Word processors, like MSWord, will actually automatically take the spaces out, though I'm sure that option can be changed. From what I've read, this is just a matter of personal preference by an editor.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  19. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state
    Oh, I don't doubt you. I'm just curious. Not new new novels, but certainly novels written in the last 10 years or so.
     
  20. The Mad Regent

    The Mad Regent Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2015
    Messages:
    1,012
    Likes Received:
    421
    Location:
    Wirral, England
    I press space before putting in the dash. It's kind of a habit, but that's just how I like to do dashes.

    Like Steerpike says, it's all down to personal preference.
     
  21. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,961
    Likes Received:
    11,838
    But the argument was based on the idea "that people don't speak in semi-colons or colons!" MLK's speech was, well, speech, right? So he did speak in colons.

    It's not about "presenting ordinary fictional dialogue that way," it's about examining the basis of the "rule" presented, and realizing that the basis of the rule makes no sense. If you want to change the original argument to "you should rarely use colons or semicolons in dialogue because people rarely speak in a way that is accurately represented by those tools of punctuation," then, sure, I'm with you.

    But any time I see an absolute about writing, I make a face at it. This face: :twisted:
     
    Mckk and jannert like this.
  22. Phil Partington

    Phil Partington Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2015
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Washington state

    "But any time I see an absolute about writing, I make a face at it. This face: :twisted:"

    Yes. This. I addressed a similar comment on this thread. Here's how I look at rules in grammar (https://authorphilpartington.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/the-rules-of-grammar-and-novel-writing/).
     
  23. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    Well, no. I mean, I could read out a directive written by the local council on bin collection schedules. I could read it out loud in front of a group of fascinated councillors. It would not be dialogue. Would it? But punctuate it any way you like. I was just explaining how I punctuate dialogue in a story I'm writing—and why. I also made it very clear—even in my original post on this thread—that I wasn't presenting it as a must-do for other people.

    I think possibly we're splitting hairs here over the definition of 'dialogue.' I define 'dialogue' as 'conversation.' Here are a list of definitions of the word (and the sources of the definitions, such as Merriam Webster) which might prove interesting.

    http://www.yourdictionary.com/dialogue

    Me too! :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015
  24. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,961
    Likes Received:
    11,838
    But the argument you presented (I know, not as your own - just arguing against the argument, not against you) used the 'fact' that people don't speak in colons and semicolons. And I'm saying that there is a form of speech that IS best represented using these symbols.

    So, no, you personally standing in front of a group of fascinated councillors would not be dialogue. But one of your characters standing in front of a group of fascinated councillors would be dialogue. And if that character was making the "colon sound" or expression or whatever it is we're calling that way of speaking represented by a colon, then the best way to punctuation that character's dialogue would be a colon. Right?
     
  25. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    13,770
    Likes Received:
    15,329
    Location:
    Scotland
    No. As I said in one of my earlier posts, you would not make a 'colon sound.' What on earth does a colon sound like? (I mean the mark of punctuation, not the other one...:eek: ...don't go there!!!) A spoken colon SOUNDS like ...wait for it ...a blooming comma! A pause, in other words. When you are speaking. Or, possibly, a full stop, depending on the length of the pause.

    But again, do whatever you like! This is not an absolute.
     

Share This Page