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View Full Version : How to use a semicolon [fun article].


Regan Leigh
01-26-2010, 09:51 AM
Oh, I don't have a question! I wanted to SHOW you... (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon)

This is such a great site, IMO. :D

AlishaS
01-26-2010, 10:04 AM
This was pretty funny and I actually found in very informative. Thanks for the sharing the link!

Your webpage signature button did it's job. It looked cool so I clicked on it. I love the look and feel of your webpage!

Regan Leigh
01-26-2010, 10:17 AM
This was pretty funny and I actually found in very informative. Thanks for the sharing the link!

Your webpage signature button did it's job. It looked cool so I clicked on it. I love the look and feel of your webpage!


Yeah, those comics are hilarious and can be useful at the same time. lol I first loved that site when I saw the how to ride a pony comic. ;)

Thanks! :D I've been working my butt off this past month to improve the site. Glad to know you liked it! :)

Greeble
01-26-2010, 06:29 PM
So now on to the em-dash.

Charlie Horse
01-26-2010, 07:52 PM
So now on to the em-dash.

By my way of thinking, semi-colons and em-dashes are practically interchangeable. For novels, I'll use an em-dash 9.9 times out of ten. In the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

kuwisdelu
01-26-2010, 07:53 PM
By my way of thinking, semi-colons and em-dashes are practically interchangeable.

...no.

Greeble
01-26-2010, 08:08 PM
By my way of thinking, semi-colons and em-dashes are practically interchangeable.

If you think that, then an article on the em-dash might indeed be a good idea.

Charlie Horse
01-26-2010, 09:48 PM
If you think that, then an article on the em-dash might indeed be a good idea.

I stand by my statement and again defer to Mr. Vonnegut.

Em Dash An em dash is the width of an m. Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing. In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.
Examples: You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me. Never have I met such a lovely person—before you. I pay the bills—she has all the fun.
A semicolon would be used here in formal writing. I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.
Remember, a colon would be used here in formal writing. My agreement with Fiona is clear—she teaches me French and I teach her German.
Again, a colon would work here in formal writing. Please call my agent—Jessica Cohen—about hiring me.
Parentheses or commas would work just fine here instead of the dashes. I wish you would—oh, never mind.
This shows an abrupt change in thought and warrants an em dash.

cscarlet
01-26-2010, 10:20 PM
Ha! That's hilarious. I have to show that with my English teacher friend. I can see her hanging it in her classroom :)

Greeble
01-26-2010, 10:36 PM
I stand by my statement and again defer to Mr. Vonnegut.

So you let writing influence of what another writer might think of it? I think Vonnegut is hardly an authority on linguistics, especially with such silly arguments. There's nothing wrong with semicolons, as long as you use them properly. I mostly use em-dashes myself, but that's just a matter of style and not one of semicolons being "hermaphrodites" or any such nonsense.

Charlie Horse
01-26-2010, 10:47 PM
If the novels I'm writing are considered formal then I'm doing something wrong.

I didn't mean to imply that em-dashes could be replaced by semi-colons. If I didn't make that clear then I apologize. But I do feel that in most cases em-dashes can serve the same purpose as a semi-colon.

The only reason I use Vonnegut as an authority is because I agree with just about everything he says. Yes, he's one of my main influences and one of the reasons I started to write.

Charlie Horse
01-26-2010, 10:50 PM
So you let writing influence of what another writer might think of it? I think Vonnegut is hardly an authority on linguistics, especially with such silly arguments. There's nothing wrong with semicolons, as long as you use them properly. I mostly use em-dashes myself, but that's just a matter of style and not one of semicolons being "hermaphrodites" or any such nonsense.

Hermaphrodites is a perfect way to describe semi-colons. They're neither a colon nor a comma, but a gender confused genetic mutation of the two.

Regan Leigh
01-27-2010, 05:31 AM
And here I thought this thread would lead to debating hairy knuckles. ;)

Matera the Mad
01-27-2010, 06:11 AM
I lurve oatmeal. Sooooo many should take the Twitter Spelling Test (http://theoatmeal.com/quiz/twitter_spell)

Regan Leigh
01-27-2010, 06:38 AM
I lurve oatmeal. Sooooo many should take the Twitter Spelling Test (http://theoatmeal.com/quiz/twitter_spell)

Ah, that is a good one. Almost as good as the one explaining how to ride a pony (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/pony). ;)

semilargeintestine
01-27-2010, 07:04 AM
He's also wrong about not using conjunctions with semicolons. The Oatmeal is hilarious. This (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tyrannosaur_crack) is my favourite.

Greeble
01-27-2010, 08:13 AM
Hermaphrodites is a perfect way to describe semi-colons. They're neither a colon nor a comma, but a gender confused genetic mutation of the two.

So slugs are "gender-confused genetic mutations"? They manage just fine, being hermaphrodites and all. Slugs have their place in the world, and so have semicolons. I use them mostly as a more breezy version of the full stop; there's nothing wrong with that.

semilargeintestine
01-27-2010, 08:17 AM
I love semicolons. I use them all the time in formal writing.

rugcat
01-27-2010, 09:49 AM
By my way of thinking, semi-colons and em-dashes are practically interchangeable. For novels, I'll use an em-dash 9.9 times out of ten. In the words of the great Kurt Vonnegut: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.They can serve the same function, grammatically speaking, but stylistically they're quite different.

It's a misconception that semicolons are only appropriate for formal writing. I write urban fantasy, first person, in a style that's anything but literary, and I've had some modest success. I use semicolons all the time; if done properly they're practically invisible. The reader's eye slides right over them but the rhythm of the sentence still comes through.

I also use em dashes -- why not? Often in editing I'll replace a semicolon with an em dash or vice versa. Some sentences read better with the one, some the other. But I will say if you sprinkle those em dashes too liberally throughout the ms, it soon becomes a noticeable stylistic device and can be annoying and distracting.

As far as Mr Vonnegut goes, he was a wonderful writer and semicolons may not work at all for his style of writing. But unless you write exactly like he does, i wouldn't take his advice as a universal. Sounds a bit tongue in cheek, anyway.

NeuroFizz
01-27-2010, 11:35 AM
I use semi-colons when I only give half-a-shit. And an em-dash is necessary when I wait too long to give that half-a-shit.


And if you take a deep breath and hold it, scrunch down and strain, and give a good squint, you may see that there is a little more than just attempted bathroom humor in the part above.

Charlie Horse
01-27-2010, 05:44 PM
So slugs are "gender-confused genetic mutations"? They manage just fine, being hermaphrodites and all. Slugs have their place in the world, and so have semicolons. I use them mostly as a more breezy version of the full stop; there's nothing wrong with that.

So next time I write about slugs, I'll be sure to use plenty of semi-colons.

Gary Clarke
01-27-2010, 10:56 PM
Ah, this was bloody great. I wish we'd had stuff like this when I was in school; it would have saved me a lot of tears and frustration if things had been made this clear to me.