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Old 12-07-2011, 12:28 PM   #31
ApK
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
Disagree. There is no rule either way on when to use a ; versus a . which was my original question. Seems to be 100% stylistic. Every example given in the thread could go either way with.
I disagree with your disagreement.
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/prop...the-semicolon/
http://www.dailywritingtips.com/whit...her-the-comma/
There are rules. Don't confuse rules with dogma. The rules allow for options and choice, and yes, style.

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(note my comment in the second article...I'm not claiming to understand the rules, I'm merely aware they exist....)
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:43 PM   #32
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What would you have used in place of the semicolon in the sentence that I wrote, above? A comma? A dash?
I'd put a period there. I know that grammatically your sentence is correct, and some might cringe at the full stop of a period, but given current modern usage that's what I'd probably use. I've also read that many NY editors don't like using semicolons, or ask that their authors use them sparingly, so that might be adding to my hyper awareness. (I hope to one day be published - if I can get over my fear of submitting, that is!)

It also doesn't help that I often see them used incorrectly. I used to read someone's first drafts, and she could barely figure out where to put a comma. Didn't stop her from adding semicolons everywhere, though.

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Old 12-07-2011, 12:50 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by Sao View Post
I'd put a period there. I know that grammatically your sentence is correct, and some might cringe at the full stop of a period, but given current modern usage that's what I'd probably use. I've also read that many NY editors don't like using semicolons, or ask that their authors use them sparingly, so that might be adding to my hyper awareness. (I hope to one day be published - if I can get over my fear of submitting, that is!)

It also doesn't help that I often see them used incorrectly. I used to read someone's first drafts, and she could barely figure out where to put a comma. Didn't stop her from adding semicolons everywhere, though.
I don't have a problem with that. I was, however, taught to use semicolons when I was in school in the dim and distant days of the '70s and, I'd like to think, taught how to use them correctly, so for me they're just a normal part of writing. I do agree, though, that it's better not to use them at all than to use them wrongly.
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Old 12-07-2011, 02:14 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Why? I use semicolons all the time in my writing; they are a useful grammatical tool. What do you find to be distracting about them?

What would you have used in place of the semicolon in the sentence that I wrote, above? A comma? A dash?
I use semicolons all the time in my writing. They are a useful grammatical tool.
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Old 12-09-2011, 03:57 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
What would you have used in place of the semicolon in the sentence that I wrote, above? A comma? A dash?
If I were writing a poetic or critical piece, or a letter to a friend, I'd leave the semicolon in. If I were writing for a magazine or people who hated ornate language, I'd replace it with a conjunction like because or a conjunctive phrase, or separate the thoughts with a period and add a phrase like This is because to the beginning of the second sentence to give it more weight and approximate the semicolon's connective effect.

Yes, of course you're using the semicolon correctly. The question is whom you're speaking to and how patient they might be with slightly formal language. You could also make a case for using semicolons deliberately to introduce readers to other kinds of language than the rigidly contemporary, but I personally would do so consciously and modally, and be ready to state my case tactfully if a reader or editor complained.

The person who spoke of usage being a triumph of idiocy could be right in a narrow ironic sense, but that would suggest that writers had been idiots for centuries. Language evolves constantly to reflect changing habits and needs, and the result has as much to do with innovation as it does with entrenched misuse. English has never been a perfect language, but that's why it can be particularly expressive. Modern writers often use fragments and startlingly ungrammatical phrases, but that's because there has been continuous development of Flaubert's innovations (now traditions) in the name of interior narrative and fidelity to his characters' thinking -- notably free indirect speech. You can see this development in the modernists, obviously (Joyce and Beckett!), but you can see it in popular fiction, too. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins, for example, and the writers whose style that book influenced directly (such as Elmore Leonard's).

That was an example, actually: I nearly used the phrase such as that of Elmore Leonard but chose to be more colloquial for the reader. (Hey, let's call up Elmore Leonard and use the phrase such as that of Elmore Leonard and see what he says. Odds are he'll be polite to disguise his irritation.)

It isn't a question of being rigidly correct but of being alert to the conventions of usage and one's own consistency. I've split infinitives and ended sentences with prepositions in this very post, but I did so deliberately, with an ear to their rhetorical effect.

Whether or not we ever succeed at striking a balance is a question most of us ask ourselves constantly. We ask until the day we don't have to or don't want to.

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 12-09-2011 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 12-09-2011, 06:45 AM   #36
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I disagree with your disagreement.
And you are free to do that, but based on this thread and many of the links in it I am convinced its stylistic and nothing more.

Every semicolon example, with out fail can be replaced with a . and often with a conjunction.

  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing. They are a useful grammatical tool.
  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing; they are a useful grammatical tool.
  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing because they are a useful grammatical tool.


The reason to pick one over the other? IMO, Style.
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Old 12-09-2011, 07:06 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by VydorScope View Post
And you are free to do that, but based on this thread and many of the links in it I am convinced its stylistic and nothing more.

Every semicolon example, with out fail can be replaced with a . and often with a conjunction.

  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing. They are a useful grammatical tool.
  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing; they are a useful grammatical tool.
  • I use semicolons all the time in my writing because they are a useful grammatical tool.
The reason to pick one over the other? IMO, Style.
All punctuation is stylistic. You can eliminate all periods if you wish; and, but and or will get you pretty far!

The end result is all that matters. When you are expressing yourself in writing, what manner of phrasing and punctuation best conveys your intent? You can certainly replace a semicolon with a period but does the result read the same? Of course not.
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Old 12-09-2011, 08:06 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Rob Lister View Post
All punctuation is stylistic. You can eliminate all periods if you wish; and, but and or will get you pretty far!

The end result is all that matters. When you are expressing yourself in writing, what manner of phrasing and punctuation best conveys your intent? You can certainly replace a semicolon with a period but does the result read the same? Of course not.
Has anyone read Donald Barthleme's "Sentence"? I haven't found the story (which consists of a single sentence) on line yet, but I have fond memories of reading it in the collection City Life, and a critic discusses it and other entries in the Olympic Sentence Length Competition here.

Oh, and about the author:

Quote:
Ed Park is the author of “Personal Days,” a novel that ends with a sentence over 16,000 words long.
I haven't read that book yet, but I imagine there might be semicolons.

Last edited by Prestidigitweeze; 12-09-2011 at 08:10 AM.
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Old 12-09-2011, 08:08 AM   #39
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and, but and or will get you pretty far!.
Ha! My kids and I just watched the whole Schoolhouse Rock DVD last weekend. Love it!

[rant]
But one thing always bugged me about Conjunction Junction, he says "'But', that's kind of the opposite: 'Not this, but that."

Nooo...'But' is not opposite. It's just an "'and' with an explanation."
Surely they could have thought of a better lyric so as not to misrepresent 'but' like that.[/rant]
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Old 12-09-2011, 09:48 AM   #40
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I managed to use a colon, commas, and a semi-colon all in the same sentence while writing this week.

“Oftentimes nobles lose fortunes for any number of reasons: mismanagement, theft, war, drought; it’s fascinating really.”
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:06 AM   #41
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Apologies for bumping this exquisite corpse piñata, but I happened to read this bit by Kurt Vonnegut in A Man without a Country and thought it illustrated the modern prejudice which semicolon users are up against:

Quote:
First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.
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Old 03-07-2013, 05:31 AM   #42
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Ridiculous; semi-colons are a valuable part of punctuation and it's not rocket science to use them correctly.
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:10 AM   #43
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I echo Harry's comment and I'll add this:

It borders upon the obscene and the salacious.


1) It was going to rain today; therefore, the man carried his umbrella.

2) It was going to rain today, so the the man carried his umbrella.

3) It was going to rain today, so the man carried two items with him when he left his house: An umbrella with flashing, kaleidoscopic lights; and a lousy book by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that he eventually tossed into a rain-glutted gutter. I've always liked alliteration, the man thought, as he danced a happy jig and watched the swirling waters swallow Vonnegut.



Don

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Old 03-07-2013, 07:11 AM   #44
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What is this compulsion modern society has with comparing everything to "Rocket Science"? Rocket Science is so ... 60's; it isn't even that difficult. Being a "Rocket Scientist", with a piece of paper that says I am and everything, I can tell you that I have a MUCH harder time trying to figure out what the proper use of a semi-colon is. Not to mention dangling participles or ending a sentence with a preposition....
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Old 03-07-2013, 07:39 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by Dr. Drib View Post
I echo Harry's comment and I'll add this:

It borders upon the obscene and the salacious.


1) It was going to rain today; therefore, the man carried his umbrella.

2) It was going to rain today, so the the man carried his umbrella.

3) It was going to rain today, so the man carried two items with him when he left his house: An umbrella with flashing, kaleidoscopic lights; and a lousy book by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that he eventually tossed into a rain-glutted gutter. I've always liked alliteration, the man thought, as he danced a happy jig and watched the swirling waters swallow Vonnegut.
Here's how I was taught:

It was going to rain today; the man carried his umbrella.

Two contextually-related independent clauses, no splice needed other than the semicolon.
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