Author Topic: Semicolons  (Read 2061 times)

Wifey

Semicolons
« on: September 25, 2018, 02:29:31 AM »
I love semicolons and use them in my fiction. Iíve read over and over they should be avoided in fiction. So far, Iíve had no complaints from readers (or editors.)


Does anyone else use them?
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

Llano

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2018, 02:31:21 AM »
I use them but then often remove them in subsequent passes. It's one of those things that's entirely correct, but could probably be avoided, and the sentence made clearer, by rewriting.
 

idontknowyet

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2018, 02:34:01 AM »

I will admit to not knowing the rules of semi colon use. Therefore I avoid them like the plague.
Writing around things I don't understand is my friend. :icon_think:   :shocked:
 

Vijaya

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2018, 02:34:15 AM »
I use them when I feel they're warranted. I also like m-dashes, but am allergic to exclamation points.

Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 

Wifey

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2018, 02:36:28 AM »

I will admit to not knowing the rules of semi colon use. Therefore I avoid them like the plague.
Writing around things I don't understand is my friend. :icon_think:   :shocked:


I used to feel this way but once I was informed, I fell in love.
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

Wifey

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #5 on: September 25, 2018, 02:38:20 AM »
I use them when I feel they're warranted. I also like m-dashes, but am allergic to exclamation points.


When I first started out, I was an m-dash fan but donít use the much anymore. Not sure why.
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

Wifey

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2018, 02:39:04 AM »
I use them but then often remove them in subsequent passes. It's one of those things that's entirely correct, but could probably be avoided, and the sentence made clearer, by rewriting.


I do the opposite and tend to add them during rewrites.
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

Kate Elizabeth

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #7 on: September 25, 2018, 02:59:14 AM »
I guess that I grew to love semicolons from all of those horrible research papers I had to do in school.  I don't use them much in my fiction, but I still manage to sneak some in there.
 

RPatton

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2018, 04:14:43 AM »
It's not that semi colons shouldn't be used in fiction, it's that using semi colons usually means you have a clause that could be its own sentence. Or if you're like me, you completely ignore the semi colon and go for the horribly incorrect comma splice.


There's also an aspect of familiarity (something I've recently developed a new appreciation for). When you're reading across a line on a page (either in a glass or paper book), your brain might not stop what its doing (recognizing familiar patterns) to consider what that little symbol means in regards to those patterns it's quickly processing. If something on the page jars the reader from their task, I don't want it anywhere near the page.



« Last Edit: September 25, 2018, 04:42:32 AM by RPatton »
 

Wifey

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2018, 04:24:14 AM »
It's not that semi colons shouldn't be used in fiction, it's usually that using semi colons usually means you have a clause that could be its own sentence. Or if you're like me, you completely ignore the semi colon and go for the horribly incorrect comma splice.


There's also an aspect of familiarity (something I've recently developed a new appreciation for). When you're reading across a line on a page (either in a glass or paper book), your brain might not stop what its doing (recognizing familiar patterns) to consider what that little symbol means in regards to those patterns it's quickly processing. If something on the page jars the reader from their task, I don't want it anywhere near the page.


Good point
Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
 

Lex

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2018, 04:44:56 AM »
I almost never use them. As a reader, I'm not super picky about punctuation (even when it comes to the Oxford comma, which you can pry from my cold, dead hands).
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2018, 05:15:45 AM »
I use all the punctuation marks.   :icon_mrgreen:

(Yes, I've even used colons.   :angel:)
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elleoco

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2018, 06:36:59 AM »
I use semis occasionally. There are times I want two clauses to be more closely associated than they would be as separate sentences or with a conjunction, yet I don't like comma-spliced sentences. I use dashes a lot more often but try not to do it without a good reason. A lot of them disappear in revision.

Just recently I read some older books that had semis used frequently enough I noticed. Only because they're frowned on these days. I think it was Elmer Kelton. He won a lot of awards in his day, but that was the '80s.

LSMay

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2018, 07:55:40 PM »
I use them on occasion. I know they're officially 'frowned upon' but when the situation calls for them, it calls for them. I don't like comma splices, and sometimes you need a semi to fix one without rearranging the sentence, changing the tone or adding extra words.

L S May | Website | Twitter | Goodreads
 

Royal Editorial (Katie)

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #14 on: September 25, 2018, 09:13:43 PM »
My motto: if the usage is correct and adds clarity or meaning, use it.  :)


Katie King, freelance editor
Royal Editorial
royaleditorialinbox[at]gmail[dot]com

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Lex

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2018, 12:58:07 AM »
My motto: if the usage is correct and adds clarity or meaning, use it.  :)


 

Oh_cabanaboy

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #16 on: September 26, 2018, 06:38:56 AM »
I use semis liberally, but have also been side-eyeing them since reading that I should back off, already. But they are valid and useful tools! My feeling is, if they donít jump out at me as being a Ďthingí in a re-read, I leave them. But if they pop at me, or seem a bit embarrassed to be there, Iíll rewrite.


(Itís a fine line though, because if Iím in the wrong mood when editing, EVERYTHING seems embarrassed to be there...)  :icon_redface:
 

RPatton

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2018, 07:27:07 AM »
I use semis liberally, but have also been side-eyeing them since reading that I should back off, already. But they are valid and useful tools! My feeling is, if they donít jump out at me as being a Ďthingí in a re-read, I leave them. But if they pop at me, or seem a bit embarrassed to be there, Iíll rewrite.

(Itís a fine line though, because if Iím in the wrong mood when editing, EVERYTHING seems embarrassed to be there...)  :icon_redface:


Great rule of thumb, but I would recommend that you actually read it in the format the reader will. What you see on the screen of your computer is completely different than what someone sees on an ereader or mobile device. Also, keep in mind your level of familiarity might be different from the reader.
 

Cathleen

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2018, 09:52:40 PM »
I use semicolons, but I tend to think in sentences that have them. To my mind, they're less noticeable than an em dash. And I really hate it when someone substitutes in a comma splice instead. Comma splices on the first page will get me to close the book.
 

WriteOn

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #19 on: September 27, 2018, 03:22:29 AM »
I avoid them. I've now had two editors who have told me they should be avoided as they are intrusive to the reader. I thought it was odd the first time I heard it, but after the second time, I decided to use them sparingly.

I also rarely use exclamation points and use em dashes on occasion as well as ellipses.
 

archaeoroutes

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #20 on: September 27, 2018, 07:19:33 AM »
Love semi-colons.
Love parenthetical commas (often wrongly accused of being splices).
Hate m-dashes with a vengeance.
Will use exclamation marks in dialogue.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2018, 07:23:19 AM by archaeoroutes »
 

bookworm

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #21 on: September 27, 2018, 09:50:39 AM »
I don't see anything wrong with semicolons. There's lots of bad advice out there. One "writing book" I read said that ebooks should have lots of paragraphs that contain only one sentence. :D
 

guest120

  • Guest
Re: Semicolons
« Reply #22 on: September 27, 2018, 10:20:28 AM »
I only use semicolons with a wink and a smile.
 
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Tom Wood

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #23 on: September 27, 2018, 12:00:00 PM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?


I was critiqued for using commas in dialogue to indicate pauses in a character's speech pattern. People do interrupt themselves, change direction, and come up with new ideas on the fly. How else would you show that other than using a comma to separate the different thoughts as they naturally arise?
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #24 on: September 27, 2018, 12:52:30 PM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?


I was critiqued for using commas in dialogue to indicate pauses in a character's speech pattern. People do interrupt themselves, change direction, and come up with new ideas on the fly. How else would you show that other than using a comma to separate the different thoughts as they naturally arise?


Speech trailing off: ellipsis
Speech interrupted: emdash

 :icon_biggrin:
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BlueWren

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #25 on: September 27, 2018, 01:48:38 PM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?


I was critiqued for using commas in dialogue to indicate pauses in a character's speech pattern. People do interrupt themselves, change direction, and come up with new ideas on the fly. How else would you show that other than using a comma to separate the different thoughts as they naturally arise?


I'm of the opinion that anything goes when it comes to character's speech, as long as it's readable. I use commas, em-dashes, ellipses - they all add flavour to the character.
 

She-la-te-da

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #26 on: September 27, 2018, 07:25:06 PM »
Quote
People do interrupt themselves, change direction, and come up with new ideas on the fly. How else would you show that other than using a comma to separate the different thoughts as they naturally arise?

It depends on how they're interrupting themselves. Abrupt? Use an em dash. Hesitant? Use ellipsis. But don't make a habit of it. If possible, try to show in the narrative that the character is doing this. The main reason people spout the "rules" is because writers can be lazy and not use their words to describe things.

Personally, I avoid semi colons in fiction. I try not to have a lot of em dashes or ellipsis, run-on sentences or comma splices. Exclamation marks only in dialog, but try to make things clear with the words I use, speech tags and so on. I'm sure I mess up at times, everyone does, but these are my preferences in writing. And reading. The main thing is to always be clear for the reader. Don't make them read something more than once to understand your meaning (I'm looking at you, Nora Roberts, you head-hopping thing).
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

Guerin

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2018, 12:32:50 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
Is this one of those trick questions? Are you by any chance one of those dreaded English teachers who never stops teaching? I'm not falling for your trickery!

On the subject of semicolons; Until you can all agree on when and when not to use them, count me out.

Guerin Zand | Website | Facebook
 
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Simon Haynes

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #28 on: September 28, 2018, 12:49:04 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?


I was critiqued for using commas in dialogue to indicate pauses in a character's speech pattern. People do interrupt themselves, change direction, and come up with new ideas on the fly. How else would you show that other than using a comma to separate the different thoughts as they naturally arise?


Speech trailing off: ellipsis
Speech interrupted: emdash

 :icon_biggrin:


Agreed!

I was reading a look-inside today where an author used commas to represent pauses and interruptions, and it took me a while to get used to seeing so many of them. (It was written in first person, so there were lots of interrupted thoughts in addition to the dialogue.)



 

Tom Wood

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #29 on: September 28, 2018, 12:56:08 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
Is this one of those trick questions? Are you by any chance one of those dreaded English teachers who never stops teaching? I'm not falling for your trickery!

On the subject of semicolons; Until you can all agree on when and when not to use them, count me out.


You vill uze zee zemi colonz ven told!
« Last Edit: October 07, 2018, 11:47:39 PM by Tom Wood »
 

Lady T L Jennings

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #30 on: September 28, 2018, 04:13:14 AM »

I will admit to not knowing the rules of semi colon use. Therefore I avoid them like the plague.
Writing around things I don't understand is my friend. :icon_think:   :shocked:

Here is a link that might help to The Oatmeal comic regarding how to use semicolon: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon
Lady T. L. Jennings ~ Writing Victorian Romance and ohlala in longhand since 2011. Visit her at: www.mysecretquill.com

     
The Dangerous Letters Trilogy ~ Gay Historical Romance
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #31 on: September 28, 2018, 06:05:58 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
Is this one of those trick questions?


Holy catfish!  I totally missed that!   :icon_lol2:

Nice catch, Guerin.   :icon_mrgreen:
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Tom Wood

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #32 on: September 28, 2018, 06:37:03 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
Is this one of those trick questions?


Holy catfish!  I totally missed that!   :icon_lol2:

Nice catch, Guerin.   :icon_mrgreen:


I meant to do that!
« Last Edit: October 07, 2018, 10:53:48 PM by Tom Wood »
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #33 on: September 28, 2018, 06:55:01 AM »
Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
Is this one of those trick questions?


Holy catfish!  I totally missed that!   :icon_lol2:

Nice catch, Guerin.   :icon_mrgreen:


I meant to do that!


 :icon_lol2:
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elleoco

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #34 on: September 28, 2018, 08:00:53 AM »
There's lots of bad advice out there. One "writing book" I read said that ebooks should have lots of paragraphs that contain only one sentence. :D
This is probably a corruption of what is IMO good advice - break up paragraphs so that they're short enough they don't fill an ereader's whole screen. If you read on a Kindle, you see a lot of this, and it can be a reader discourager.

guest390

  • Guest
Re: Semicolons
« Reply #35 on: September 28, 2018, 11:14:56 AM »
    • [/color]Rules for Using Semicolons[/size][/color][/font][/size]
    • A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two  that are closely related in thought.
      When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.
      Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.
    • Use a semicolon between two  that are connected by  or .
      However they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.
    • Use a semicolon between items in a list or series if any of the items contain commas.
      There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which is more expensive but quick and neat.
    • Use a semicolon between  joined by a  if the clauses are already punctuated with commas or if the clauses are lengthy.
      Some people write with a word processor, tablet, or a even a phone; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a pen or pencil.
    [/list]Avoid using a comma when a semicolon is needed:Incorrect: The cow is brown, it is also old.
    Correct: The cow is brown; it is also old.

    What's going on here? Both parts of the sentence are , and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no . This mistake is known as a comma splice.Incorrect: I like cows, however, I hate the way they smell.
    Correct: I like cows; however, I hate the way they smell.

    What's going on here? The conjunctive adverb however signals a connection between two , and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses if there is no .Incorrect: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good, they give us beef, which also tastes good, and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.
    Correct: I like cows: they give us milk, which tastes good; they give us beef, which also tastes good; and they give us leather, which is used for shoes and coats.

    What's going on here? It's unclear what the three list items are, since the items are separated by commas.Incorrect: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane in recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this planet, domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we humans pass tumultuously by.
    Correct: Cows, though their bovine majesty has been on the wane in recent millenia, are still one of the great species of this planet;domesticated, yet proud, they ruminate silently as we humans pass tumultuously by.

    What's going on here? It's unclear where the first  ends and the second independent clause begins.Avoid using a semicolon when a comma is needed:Incorrect: Because cows smell; they offend me.
    Correct: Because cows smell, they offend me.

    What's going on here? The first part is not an , so no semicolon is required.
     

    Wifey

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #36 on: September 28, 2018, 01:10:59 PM »
    Thatís great, Brian.
    Genres: Romance, Chic Lit, YA
     

    Guerin

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #37 on: September 28, 2018, 09:42:07 PM »
    Speaking of comma splices... How else would you indicate pauses in dialogue?
    Is this one of those trick questions?


    Holy catfish!  I totally missed that!   :icon_lol2:

    Nice catch, Guerin.   :icon_mrgreen:


    I meant to do that!
    Aren't you clever, Mostly Harmless?

    Admit you're a Grammar Nazi, a card-carrying member of the Punctuation Police, just trolling these forums waiting to pounce on us pathetic would-be writers. You have your red pen in one hand and a glass of cheap swill in the other. A disenchanted English professor/teacher I would hazard to guess? Go ahead and tear my books apart if you will. There isn't enough red ink in the world for that task.

    But tell me Smartypants, why didn't you catch the punctuation error in your clever little trap or my mocking response?  :hehe
    « Last Edit: September 28, 2018, 09:45:25 PM by Guerin »

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    Tom Wood

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #38 on: September 28, 2018, 10:46:53 PM »

    Aren't you clever, Mostly Harmless?

    Admit you're a Grammar Nazi, a card-carrying member of the Punctuation Police, just trolling these forums waiting to pounce on us pathetic would-be writers. You have your red pen in one hand and a glass of cheap swill in the other. A disenchanted English professor/teacher I would hazard to guess? Go ahead and tear my books apart if you will. There isn't enough red ink in the world for that task.

    But tell me Smartypants, why didn't you catch the punctuation error in your clever little trap or my mocking response?  :hehe


    CHEAP swill?!? That's an insult! An outrage! I'll have you know that I drink only the BEST swill!


    Now write gooder, you dawgs!
    « Last Edit: October 07, 2018, 10:50:44 PM by Tom Wood »
     

    Sam Kates

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    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #39 on: September 29, 2018, 12:19:21 AM »
    A couple of posters upthread mentioned that semicolons are 'officially' frowned upon. Really? Who is this 'official' body who's been placed in charge of deciding whether to use perfectly valid punctuation marks?
    I don't get the lack of love for semicolons; it's another weapon in our writing armoury so why the heck not use it? And, yeah, I use colons, too.
     

    Guerin

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #40 on: September 29, 2018, 01:50:37 AM »
    • Rules for Using Semicolons
    [/color][/font]
    Sorry Brian, but your cut and paste attempt made this close to useless since much was missing. Please use links in such cases.
    https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Semicolons.html

    Guerin Zand | Website | Facebook
     

    Jeff Tanyard

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #41 on: September 29, 2018, 09:54:46 AM »
    A couple of posters upthread mentioned that semicolons are 'officially' frowned upon. Really? Who is this 'official' body who's been placed in charge of deciding whether to use perfectly valid punctuation marks?


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    guest390

    • Guest
    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #42 on: September 29, 2018, 02:59:25 PM »
    • Rules for Using Semicolons
    Sorry Brian, but your cut and paste attempt made this close to useless since much was missing. Please use links in such cases.
    https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Semicolons.html
    Yeah. Not the best on the PC. As for my personal usage of the semicolon, is comes up in the first example most often. I'm fortunate to have a copy and line editor who writes text books for Macmillan. When I get it wrong, she catches it. Which brings me to a point: use a qualified editor and you don't need to worry about it.  :icon_cool:
     

    Sam Kates

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    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #43 on: September 29, 2018, 08:04:56 PM »
    A couple of posters upthread mentioned that semicolons are 'officially' frowned upon. Really? Who is this 'official' body who's been placed in charge of deciding whether to use perfectly valid punctuation marks?



    :roll:
     

    Victoria

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #44 on: October 08, 2018, 01:51:22 AM »
    A couple of posters upthread mentioned that semicolons are 'officially' frowned upon. Really? Who is this 'official' body who's been placed in charge of deciding whether to use perfectly valid punctuation marks?
    I don't get the lack of love for semicolons; it's another weapon in our writing armoury so why the heck not use it? And, yeah, I use colons, too.

    I think it all stems from Kurt Vonnegut who wrote: ďHere is a lesson in creative writing. The first rule: do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show youíve been to college.Ē

    Since then, they have been frowned upon. I think it also stems from them being unnecessary, a full stop will be fine, and some readers (and writers) don't know how they are mean't to be used, and for those that don't seeing them can be confusing. In creative writing classes, you are also taught that they slow down the pace of the text.
     

    dgcasey

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    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #45 on: October 08, 2018, 04:21:47 AM »
    My motto: if the usage is correct and adds clarity or meaning, use it.  :)

    Yeah, well, that's a colon and the "if" should have been "If".  But, :yourock:
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    dgcasey

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    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #46 on: October 08, 2018, 04:23:18 AM »
    Only in a writer's forum could there be an entire thread about the lowly semi-colon.

     :tup3b
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    Tom Wood

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #47 on: October 08, 2018, 04:46:04 AM »
    Only in a writer's forum could there be an entire thread about the lowly semi-colon.

     :tup3b

    We should probably become mildly concerned if it ever gets its own subforum.
     

    guest120

    • Guest
    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #48 on: October 08, 2018, 01:37:40 PM »
    Only in a writer's forum could there be an entire thread about the lowly semi-colon.

     :tup3b

    We should probably become mildly concerned if it ever gets its own subforum.

    The system goes online August 4th, 2027. Humans are removed from punctuation and editing. Semicolon begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern Time, August 29th. In a panic, they try to pull the plug. It launches it's grammatical attack against the targets in Russia because Semicolon knows that the counterattack will split all our infinitives over here.

    Watching John with the punctuation mark, it was suddenly so clear. The Comma, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this squiggly curve of a mark on the page was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice.
     

    Paranormal Kitty

    Re: Semicolons
    « Reply #49 on: October 08, 2018, 02:40:06 PM »
    If the semicolon isnīt supposed to be used much, why do English keyboards have it on the home row? That always puzzled me.