Author Topic: Semicolons  (Read 2058 times)

guest14

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Re: Semicolons
« Reply #50 on: October 08, 2018, 07:05:19 PM »
If the semicolon isn´t supposed to be used much, why do English keyboards have it on the home row? That always puzzled me.

and it's only half of a colon anyway! so, why is a 'colon' also twenty-eight feet of intestine?
 

Paranormal Kitty

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #51 on: October 08, 2018, 10:59:42 PM »
If the semicolon isn´t supposed to be used much, why do English keyboards have it on the home row? That always puzzled me.

and it's only half of a colon anyway! so, why is a 'colon' also twenty-eight feet of intestine?

So if you get part of your colon removed, do you then have a semicolon?
 

Kyra Halland

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #52 on: October 09, 2018, 09:14:53 AM »
As with adverbs, they can take away my semicolons when they pry them from my cold, dead hands. Because of this:

There are times I want two clauses to be more closely associated than they would be as separate sentences or with a conjunction

Rhythm of the sentence and paragraph and association of ideas are reasons why I use semicolons.

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.

Yup, this. Maybe this is another one of those "rules" that comes from agents and people like that.

I think it all stems from Kurt Vonnegut who wrote: “Here 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 you’ve been to college.”

Sometimes I wonder if famous authors make these prescriptive statements just to look smart or be "transgressive," not because they really believe them.

My one rule of writing is ignore all the "always" and "nevers" and just do what works best to communicate your ideas in the way you intend.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2018, 09:21:35 AM by Kyra Halland »


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Sam Kates

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Re: Semicolons
« Reply #53 on: October 09, 2018, 09:28:34 AM »
I think it all stems from Kurt Vonnegut who wrote: “Here 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 you’ve been to college.”

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.

Ah. Not official at all, then. A bit like Stephen King and his adverbs.

I can understand if writers avoid them if they're not sure when to use them, though that's not a reason for those who do know how to use them to avoid using them.

As for them being unnecessary, that's completely a matter of opinion. A full stop doesn't serve the same purpose - sometimes you (as in the general 'you') want a pause that's longer than a comma, but shorter than a full stop. Do these creative writing teachers advocate not to use full stops, too, because they sure slow things down somewhat.
 
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trashpanda

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #54 on: October 09, 2018, 12:20:34 PM »
I love semicolons. You shall pry them from my cold, sugar-covered hands. :D
 
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dikim

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #55 on: January 24, 2019, 02:16:39 AM »
I'm another person who doesn't use semi-colons and does use dashes. That's my writing style and it's fine. If you like semi-colons and hate dashes, that's your writing style and that's fine too. There are far fewer rules in fiction writing than people lead you to believe, but plenty of suggestions that people want you to follow. If a suggestion or rule feels wrong, it probably is.
« Last Edit: January 24, 2019, 04:16:31 AM by dikim »


Author of more than 40 books and several scripts. Writes fiction and non-fiction for children, young adults, adults and other writers.
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Easter IsleDan

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #56 on: January 24, 2019, 04:06:04 AM »
Was Kurt Vonnegut goofing off during high school English classes?  That's when I learned about semicolons.  Possibly junior high.
     
 

munboy

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #57 on: January 24, 2019, 06:30:34 AM »
If the semicolon isn´t supposed to be used much, why do English keyboards have it on the home row? That always puzzled me.

You really want them jacking up the keyboard now? Admittedly, I often accidentally hit the semicolon/colon when going for the apostrophe/quotation marks, but I'm too old to relearn where everything is on the keyboard without hunting and pecking.
 

M.SusanneWiggins

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #58 on: January 24, 2019, 07:36:34 AM »
The semicolon and the em-dash are your best-buds. Use them liberally when warranted and wisely in editing-hindsight.

Personally, I adore the semicolon and em-dash in narrative; however, I somewhat detest them in dialogue.

Side note: In narrative, I prefer the em-dash to avoid the overuse of parentheses—especially when dealing with mid-narrative parenthetical ‘thoughts’—because pages rampant with: (this) and (that) and (t’other) take on too much ‘visual’ notice.
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Tom Wood

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #59 on: January 24, 2019, 07:48:06 AM »
I know that it’s standard formatting—at least in the US—to use the em-dash without a space at either end.

I think it looks too crowded — and is harder to read — compared to the placement of a space at either end.
 

Easter IsleDan

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #60 on: January 24, 2019, 08:04:35 AM »
In — deed.

BVTTHENTHEROMANSWROTELIKETHISSOMAYBEWEAREGETTINGSOFT
     
 
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sandree

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #61 on: January 24, 2019, 09:17:14 AM »
I love em dashes and ellipses - probably too much. Oddly, my iPad keyboard appears to not have an em dash or else I haven’t found it. Semicolons rarely show up in my writing but now that I have read this long thread about them, they may put in an appearance.

Easter IsleDan

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #62 on: January 24, 2019, 02:21:27 PM »
I love em dashes and ellipses - probably too much. Oddly, my iPad keyboard appears to not have an em dash or else I haven’t found it. Semicolons rarely show up in my writing but now that I have read this long thread about them, they may put in an appearance.

Go to the numbers keyboard, then press and hold the dash (-) key and a popup will appear with the en-dash, em-dash and bullet characters.
     
 
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munboy

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #63 on: January 25, 2019, 07:55:28 AM »
Somebody asked John Green about punctuation. He said something along the lines of if you can use a period, use it. Nothing else is needed.
 

Guerin

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #64 on: January 25, 2019, 08:15:29 AM »
Another John Green quote:

“The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle of a sentence.”

Guerin Zand | Website | Facebook
 

M.SusanneWiggins

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #65 on: January 25, 2019, 08:51:36 AM »
Another way to achieve a fast em-dash (in Windows→PC) is to hold down the Alt key while pressing 0151. For en-dash: Alt key/0150.
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munboy

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #66 on: January 25, 2019, 10:20:34 AM »
Another way to achieve a fast em-dash (in Windows→PC) is to hold down the Alt key while pressing 0151. For en-dash: Alt key/0150.

If you use Word, you can make your own hot keys. I created a quick hot key (ctrl -) for em-dash until I switched to Scrivener. In that, you can get an em-dash but typing 2 hyphens together (--). Scrivener automatically changes it.
 

Mammasan

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #67 on: January 25, 2019, 10:54:14 AM »
If you make an em dash on Word, your readers will definitely end up seeing ―" on a line all by its lonesome. This is because if Word can't fit the whole thing in the line, it treats the ―" as a separate word, and moves it down to the next line. This of course looks terrible. You might not see it in your manuscript, but everyone's devices are different sizes, so guaranteed it will happen.

When I need an em dash I use the horizontal bar. It looks almost exactly like an em dash, but, it has sticky ends. That is, it will not allow your readers' devices to separate the ―" from the word you've attached it to. Instead, if Word can't fit the entire word―" on the line, Word will send the entire word―" onto the next line, not just the ―" . Looks way better than a line with just ―" on it.

Word > click where you want the em dash to be > Insert > Symbols > use symbol 2015 > Insert > thereafter just copy paste it in when you need it.
 
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Guerin

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #68 on: January 25, 2019, 10:23:54 PM »
Word > click where you want the em dash to be > Insert > Symbols > use symbol 2015 > Insert > thereafter just copy paste it in when you need it.

In Word, the shortcut for an em dash is CTRL+ALT+MINUS. No need to make it any more complicated than it needs to be.

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Llano

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #69 on: January 26, 2019, 01:06:49 AM »
If you make an em dash on Word, your readers will definitely end up seeing ―" on a line all by its lonesome. This is because if Word can't fit the whole thing in the line, it treats the ―" as a separate word, and moves it down to the next line. This of course looks terrible. You might not see it in your manuscript, but everyone's devices are different sizes, so guaranteed it will happen.

When I need an em dash I use the horizontal bar. It looks almost exactly like an em dash, but, it has sticky ends. That is, it will not allow your readers' devices to separate the ―" from the word you've attached it to. Instead, if Word can't fit the entire word―" on the line, Word will send the entire word―" onto the next line, not just the ―" . Looks way better than a line with just ―" on it.

Word > click where you want the em dash to be > Insert > Symbols > use symbol 2015 > Insert > thereafter just copy paste it in when you need it.

Not sure if you're talking about only eBooks, but the horizontal bar could have unexpected consequences. Since it's not punctuation it won't break at all, so it's tied to words on both sides.

Many, probably most, fonts don't have a horizontal bar. Word will go find one from another font, but I'm not sure what an eReader would do.

There are simple solutions in Word for the very rare occurrence where an em dash at the end of a paragraph ends up on a line by itself, but they may or may not work in an eBook where you are at the mercy of the both device and the reader.

I wouldn't defeat the purpose of every em dash in a book on the chance that one of them might break wrong on a random eReader using a random font at a random size.
 

Llano

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #70 on: January 26, 2019, 01:18:51 AM »
Another way to achieve a fast em-dash (in Windows→PC) is to hold down the Alt key while pressing 0151. For en-dash: Alt key/0150.

If you use Word, you can make your own hot keys. I created a quick hot key (ctrl -) for em-dash until I switched to Scrivener. In that, you can get an em-dash but typing 2 hyphens together (--). Scrivener automatically changes it.

Word will convert two hyphens to an em dash. Seems like it's the default.

Options>Proofing>AutoCorrect

 

Gaylord Fancypants

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #71 on: January 31, 2019, 01:41:09 PM »
My life is awash in semicolons; they are vital to everything I do. I don't think they're really that jarring to most people IMHO. Most folks don't know how to use them, but they don't notice their use. They probably just see the comma bit at the bottom and ignore the confusing dot above it.
 
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Jeff Tanyard

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #72 on: January 31, 2019, 05:56:53 PM »
One of my favorite sentences contains both a colon and a semicolon.

"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."
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kdiem

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #73 on: February 09, 2019, 01:14:17 PM »
I use the punctuation that would be correct for the sentence, be it an em dash, colon, or semicolon.

Then I take out the colon and semicolon punctuation and rewrite anything that used them because my editor can't stand those.

Please note I specified punctuation so that Paranormal Kitty and other sensitive souls do not need to fear that any internal organs are deliberately injured during my editing process.  grint

Author. Bibliophile. Fangirl.
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The Bass Bagwhan

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #74 on: February 18, 2019, 11:41:39 PM »
I know that it’s standard formatting—at least in the US—to use the em-dash without a space at either end.

I think it looks too crowded — and is harder to read — compared to the placement of a space at either end.

The idea is to prevent the em dash from being orphaned by a line break. A trick to use instead is control/shift/spacebar which creates a non-breaking space, meaning it's permanently "attached" to the word before (and after, if you do both as non-breaking spaces) even though you still have your normal space. Many people use a non-breaking space before an em dash, but a normal one afterwards to force the em dash to at least stick with the word prior, but allow a line break afterwards. And it avoids any long phrase like, "avoid words like inadvertentlyaccidentally creating huge words that Justify won't separate.
 

Keith Ward

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #75 on: February 21, 2019, 06:03:54 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 pretty much this.

Phronk

Re: Semicolons
« Reply #76 on: February 22, 2019, 11:00:50 PM »
I’ve loved em dashes ever since I learned the keyboard shortcut for them—on Mac or iOS, it’s Shift-Option-dash. I had to look at my fingers to figure that out, since it’s become automatic for me now. My fingers make most style decisions, to be honest.

Overall, my main preference is for consistency. Sometimes I’ll see writers (especially in non-fiction or marketing materials, but sometimes in fiction too) use an en dash with spaces in one sentence, then use an em dash without spaces in the next. If you’re gonna go rogue with punctuation, at least be consistently wrong. Or, some people—and this is getting off topic—capitalize random nouns for absolutely no reason. Like, do they literally have a coin beside the keyboard they flip to make these decisions? Isn’t it easier to just do it the same every time?

Rant: over.