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Old 03-12-2013, 10:40 AM   #87
Prestidigitweeze
Fledgling Demagogue
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On the nether hind, if a writer makes the stylistic decision to avoid semicolons for reasons which are not prescriptive, then the question becomes whether or not the writer's avoidance techniques are graceful and effective. When detective writers are willing to treat a single dependent clause as an entire paragraph, the sense of continuation becomes implicit. Even their full stops become commas and compressed ellipses.

If I'm writing a story for a commercial publication, I'll often leave out semicolons, since they can annoy the person who votes on acceptance and the copy editor will probably replace them with periods anyway. If I'm writing a story in a more formal, antiquated or difficult style, or for a small press, I might leave them in depending on the style and conventions of the particular piece.

It might be better if we made a distinction as to whether a person condemns semicolon use or avoids it for personal/professional reasons. Novelists often avoid them, but no one who reads Henry James can disapprove of his semicolons without appearing tone-deaf. You don't have to like James's style, but you should at least grasp the structure of his sentences and the function of his punctuation in making subtle connections.

Imagine a world in which legal documents were purged of semicolons. The lists Harry mentions would appear nonsensical without them.

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 03-12-2013 at 10:56 AM.
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