Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hello, Larraine Wills

Semicolon, to or not to?


I am not an expert on composition, don’t pretend to be. I get confused by new styles and new trends the same as everyone. The first time I got a rejection, telling me I hadn’t used the Chicago Style of Writing, that publishers preferred, was the first time I had ever heard of any style other than I had learned in school. I thought English was English until then. The thought of learning English all over again nearly put me into a panic. I went right out to get a copy of the manual only to discover later, with my first acceptance, that not only do not all publishers prefer or use the Chicago Style, but each publisher has their own little preferences when it comes to grammar and punctuation. Confusing? Oh, yes, but semicolons rules have basically stayed the same in how they’re used, even though many publishers now prefer you not to use them at all. Before I get into that, let me give you two definitions for a semicolon usage from two sources. ‘The Elements of Style” a nice, basic reference book that has been around for ages, says, “If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.” From Purdue Online Writing Lab (resources to help you learn the Chicago Manual of Style): “You can use a semi-colon to join two independent clauses. Joining two independent clauses this way implies that the two clauses are related and/or equal, or perhaps that one restates the other.”

Though the two are a little different, the base rule is the same; you use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences without a conjunction. The first sentence in this paragraph brought up a squiggle green line from grammar check under the first comma. (I don’t know how many commas I incorrectly changed to a semicolon before I realized Word was telling me that it might need a semicolon, not that it did.) That sentence can stand as a good example of do or not. Had I written, The two are a little different; the base rule is the same, it would have required a semicolon, two independent sentences, the first relating to the other. In the first usage, Though the two are a little different is not a stand alone sentence. Another correct way to write it, Though the two are a little different, the base rule is the same, therefore you use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences without a conjunction. Now the same sentence in a style becoming more popular with many publishers who favor taking the semicolon out and making it two stand alone sentences. Though the two are a little different, the base rule is the same. You use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences without a conjunction. When in doubt, the last method is always correct.

Now just for fun, those of you who write, use find and see how many semicolons you’ve used in your last manuscript. I did that just last week on an early manuscript of mine and took out at least twenty. I’m sure it was a copy done before I realized Word was telling me maybe.

Visit me at my website: http://www.larriane.com/    I love visitors. You can check out my latest releases and get a glimpse of what’s coming next.

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