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Nibelheim

Hello, I'm not too familiar with the use of the semi colon so I was wondering if anyone would be able to tell me if this sentence was correct? Guess other writers may wish to post there own questions here as well if need be.

Flandre nodded then after a brief pause she realized that her gesture wouldn't have been seen by her little friend; what with her being behind her and such so instead responded with a simple "Yes."

2/2/2012 . Edited by Rhea Silverkeys, 10/20/2015 #1
SimonSeville27

A semicolon is only really used to combine two sentences without the use of a conjunction. Also there were a couple other mistakes (like the beginning not being its own sentence).

In this case, you are adding additional details so you would separate that part of the sentence with commas. Let me know if you have any questions about any other changes I made to the sentence.

I believe the proper way to write it would be:

Flandre nodded. Then after a brief pause, she realized that her gesture wouldn't have been seen by her little friend, what with her being behind her and such, so instead responded with a simple "Yes."

2/2/2012 #2
Nibelheim

Ah thanks for the help. I always try to use them unsuccessfully.

2/2/2012 #3
Lorendiac

First, a quick note for Nibelheim on the "house rules" for this forum. Each new topic-thread should be "categorized" to show what general area it falls into. In this case, a question about grammar and punctuation should be categorized as a "Writing" topic.

So the title of this thread, to conform to the local rules, simply needs to be edited to change it to "Writing: Grammar Questions." Otherwise the thread will eventually get locked by one of the Mods.

Now I'll take a crack at the sample sentence you offered, Nibelheim. Simon's edited version is an improvement, but I think there's still other things that can be spruced up.

I think "then" and "after a brief pause" are being used as separate clauses here, so I'd put a comma after the word "then."

(Or else I'd delete either "then" or "after a brief pause" -- there's no requirement to do it that way, but I might decide one or the other got the general point across. Or I might leave it just the way it was, after careful consideration. Who knows?)

Also, I definitely wouldn't use "her" in the same clause of the same sentence to mean both "Flandre" AND "Flandre's little friend" in quick succession. That just gets too confusing as the reader sees you referring to "her being behind her." In that context, it's much better if the pronoun "her" is only referring to one specific female character, instead of the intended meaning of "her" jumping around from Character A (Flandre) to Character B (her friend) without warning!

I'd probably insert the friend's name in that passage -- that's much more clear and specific than just calling her "her" at the same time I'm calling Flandre "her." For the sake of argument, let's say the friend is called "Amy."

I also don't see why you need the vague phrase "and such" when the fact that the friend is currently being behind Flandre is already being offered as a valid reason for the friend not to detect Flandre's affirmative nod. (Granted, if I were reading the entire scene at once, and thus knew more about the context of this passage, I might already understand what the other reasons were supposed to be, above and beyond the fact of the friend being somewhere behind Flandre?)

So my edited version of that passage might go this way:

Flandre nodded. Then, after a brief pause, she realized that her gesture wouldn't have been seen by her little friend, what with Amy being behind her, so instead responded with a simple "Yes."

In that version, the words "she" and "her" consistently refer to Flandre, all the way through that sentence. Much easier for the reader to keep track!

2/2/2012 . Edited 2/2/2012 #4
Ragnelle

Just to prove Lorendiac's point about confusion with more than one 'her': would it not be Flandre that was behind the friend? If the friend was standing behind Flandre, then she should be able to see Flandre nod - unless she also had her back to Flandre. But how would Flandre know that if the friend was behind her? It would make much more sense if Flandre is behind her friend: the friend can not see her, and she can see her friend.

2/2/2012 #5
Nibelheim

Thanks for the information. It would be better to rename one of the 'hers' as the friends name I guess. I always try to keep in mind not to use peoples names or any words for that matter too many times in quick succession.

Also, the characters are actually crawling in a air duct hence the difficultly in seeing her gesture :)

2/2/2012 #6
Ragnelle

Don't be afraid to use names. Most people on this site err the other way around: using the names to little, whether they do as you did here and make it unclear with too many pronouns, or by using epithets. The later is the far worst offender. Names are not all that intrusive.

2/2/2012 #7
Nibelheim

Here's another sentence. One of these will be right one day :)

Cirno clutched her chest, she was trying to rest her beating heart.

The above is correct right because its two sentences that are related?

This is what I actually used in my story below

Cirno clutched her chest, trying to rest her beating heart.

2/20/2012 #8
SimonSeville27

The bottom one would be correct because the second part of the sentence is a dependent clause.

In the top sentence, the part after the comma is an independent clause, so it either needs to have a conjunction, be it's own sentence or have a semicolon.

Any of these versions would be right:

Cirno clutched her chest. She was trying to rest her beating heart.

Cirno clutched her chest; she was trying to rest her beating heart.

Cirno clutched her chest, for she was trying to rest her beating heart. (For could be replaced with any other conjunction that makes sense of course, such as 'and')

Cirno clutched her chest, trying to rest her beating heart. (Since you lose 'she' it is now a dependent clause and just needs a comma).

Also, I notice that this thread still hasn't been categorized. Please do that by editing the first post and conforming it to the guidelines in the welcome thread. Otherwise a moderator will probably lock this thread soon.

2/20/2012 #9
Nibelheim

Ah thanks for that :) I edited the post. I just get confused with those semi colons since I never really use them.

2/20/2012 #10
Corinne Tate

If we're talking about grammar questions, I'd like to pose one.

I've recently decided that a little more simplicity in my writing is an improvement. I used to use all kinds of grammar devices. I would employ the ellipsis... maybe a dash - a semi-colon when necessary; even italics or bold print. I would use all these things to try to make the reader pause, or maybe emphasize my words.

But now I'm seeing that all those devices really just clutter up the writing and make it harder to read. I've already done my best to eliminate all but the most necessary of exclamation marks. So now when I edit I'm going to make war on those other accessories which make my writing look gaudy.

Anyone else have thoughts on the matter? Any other overused grammar crutches I should be aware of? (Why is it that correctly saying "of which I should be aware" is correct but just sounds too snooty?)

2/20/2012 #11
SimonSeville27

First off, "of which I should be aware" just sounds odd. That's a grammar rule I just no longer care about. I just think that's where it belongs at. (Okay... I did that one on purpose)

Ellipses

I'm a huge offender of the ellipsis. (Particularly in casual writing like on a forum, but also in my writing). I think the important thing to remember with ellipsis in stories is that they do have a good use, if done properly. In stories, I use them in two contexts, both of which are during dialogue:

-When I'm in very emotional scene where someone is saying something out loud for the first time, and I want to show broken speech. So when telling someone that they're husband is dead, I'll say, "Brittany, Alvin is... he's... Alvin is dead." I think it's important though that when you use them, you don't follow normal sentence structure, because you do want to show a sort of confusion in the speech. So when I use them in this context, the entire sentence just ignores the rules of grammar.

-When someone interrupts someone. Self explanatory really. This is where it is actually grammatically needed, because you are showing the sentence isn't completed.

Semicolons

I only use semicolons when I really want to combine two sentences together. This doesn't happen too much for me.

Dashes

I don't think I've ever used a dash except when I have a word that requires one to be grammatically correct.

Bold and italics

I italicize a word occasionally, but not often. The only time I do it is when I need the reader to put an emphasis on that for the sentence to make sense. So in the sentence, "I didn't steal the money." it sounds like he is saying that he doesn't have the money at all, but if I write, "I didn't steal the money." the reader knows that the speaker put an emphasis on that word, which indicates that he is denying that it was stolen and instead that it was given to him. That's the only time I use it really.

And I don't think I've ever used a bold word mid-story. Just for chapter headings and whatnot.

---

Now that being said, I have some issues of my own. For me, the horrible tendency I have is to break an otherwise grammatically correct sentence into a sentence and a fragment for effect.

Here's an example from one of my stories:

"That way the story can be told by the three of us. And only the three of us."

Now had I combined the two and made it one sentence, it would be correct, but instead I have a tendency to start it off as a new sentence, conjunction and all. I like to do it because it puts such a strong emphasis on that little sentence fragment, but it is horribly incorrect.

Will I change? Nope. I like it and I don't even care that it's wrong.

2/20/2012 . Edited 2/20/2012 #12
cathrl

Ellipses and dashes are useful tools in indicating tone, when used at the end of dialogue. I think they're simpler than always using something like "he trailed off" or "she cut in".

Basically I try to make my writing look like published work. That means no bold (except for titles), very occasional italics, certainly no repeated !!!!, pretty much no ellipses in description. I do use paired dashes in description, because I much prefer them to brackets and there are situations where paired commas just produce run-on sentences.

Simon, ellipses don't indicate that someone was interrupted. A dash does that. Elllipses indicate trailing off.

2/20/2012 . Edited 2/20/2012 #13
Hippothestrowl

I use ellipses a lot in dialogue but almost never in the narrative. I love to make dialogue sound as natural as possible so I get the characters to stumble over their words, tail off at the end, repeat parts, even explain themselves with 'I mean...' so eg, "Did you see her?" said Harry. "Hermione, I mean?" rather than just "Did you see Hermione?" But yes, ellipses, people pause a lot when speaking especially when confused, frightened, embarrassed, etc. so using ellipses and breaking up the speech gives it an extra emotional charge I think and makes it feel more natural. In many fanfics the dialogue sounds like a printer output of the author's words. Oh yes and I also use -- at the end to signify an interruption.

I use italics for radio, reading out loud within dialogue, eg, a character reading out part of a letter, and also for some direct thoughts to give an extra punch. This is not style canon with Potter but it's an indugence of mine. I mostly try to describe a character's feelings and thoughts in the narrative but here and there it's good to look directly into their minds and I don't like doing that without italics.

I virtually never use bold. One exception. My Pottercast radio story I used bold italics for the studio transmissions and normal italics for the outside broadcasts to help identify who was talking. But this was an unusual fic where 95% was radio.

2/21/2012 #14
SimonSeville27

Actually you did remind me of something. In my WIPs I have a story within a story type of situation so I do use a bunch of italics. Basically, my first WIP had the characters testifying at a trial about what happened during a murder, so I had two stories going on, the murder and the trial. So whenever I had someone talking about the murder during testimony, I would put it in italics instead of making it normal dialogue. I also use italics for any other flashback type scenes to separate the two time frames.

2/21/2012 #15
The Lauderdale

(Why is it that correctly saying "of which I should be aware" is correct but just sounds too snooty?)

First off, "of which I should be aware" just sounds odd. That's a grammar rule I just no longer care about. I just think that's where it belongs at. (Okay... I did that one on purpose)

Winston Churchill, famously, on prepositions: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." Or however he originally said it. ;)

2/21/2012 #16
Corinne Tate

I am glad that preposition thing isn't written in stone.

I think what's bothering me about my own writing and all those devices, is that I'm doubting my readers. I've been taught that dialog doesn't have to follow good grammar, so sentence fragments are allowed. But when I try to force the reader to emphasize certain words, or get them to pause when reading, I think it feels like I don't trust them to understand my meaning without the cues.

"He just left... he left without even telling me!"

"He just left. He left without even telling me."

Alone the cues might be necessary. But in the passage, the readers should be able to know how emotional my character would be with the events. I've been erring on the side of smacking them in the head with how I want them to see it.

2/21/2012 #17
Hope the Ghost Writer

A semicolon is only really used to combine two sentences without the use of a conjunction.

A semicolon can also be used to separate listed items that contain commas. For example, semicolons can separate the names of cities, such as Houston, Texas; New York, New York; and Boston, Massachusetts.

But, other than that, yeah, its primary function is to combine two independent clauses/sentences.

It's nice to finally see someone taking interest in the function of the semicolon. Most people seem to use it willy-nilly, regardless of the fact that they don't know its true purpose. It drives me crazy to see that nobody really knows how to use it, yet people still use it regardless.

2/22/2012 . Edited 2/22/2012 #18
SimonSeville27

A semicolon can also be used to separate listed items that contain commas.

I though there was another use for it but I just couldn't remember what it was...

It drives me crazy to see that nobody really knows how to use it, yet people still use it regardless.

Same here. I don't mind if people don't use them (Because there aren't too many times that it is really needed), but I can't stand it when people don't know how to use them, so they shove them in random places. It's one of those things that isn't hard to understand once you know the rule, but if you don't know the rule you should stay away from.

2/22/2012 #19
Hope the Ghost Writer

I though there was another use for it but I just couldn't remember what it was...

Well, there it is. :P

Same here. I don't mind if people don't use them (Because there aren't too many times that it is really needed), but I can't stand it when people don't know how to use them, so they shove them in random places. It's one of those things that isn't hard to understand once you know the rule, but if you don't know the rule you should stay away from.

My philosophy is that if you don't know how to use them, then don't use them. I'll be completely honest: I have a paragraph-long rant about semicolon use on my profile. XD

2/22/2012 . Edited 2/22/2012 #20
SimonSeville27

I though there was another use for it but I just couldn't remember what it was...Well, there it is. :PYup. And of course, emoticons are the other acceptable use of the semicolon. ;^)

My philosophy is that if you don't know how to use them, then don't use them. I'll be completely honest: I have a paragraph-long rant about semicolon use on my profile. XD

I love the rant. Very few people are that obsessive about misuse of semicolons.

2/22/2012 #21
Hope the Ghost Writer

Yup. And of course, emoticons are the other acceptable use of the semicolon. ;^)

How did I not think of that? XD

I love the rant. Very few people are that obsessive about misuse of semicolons.

Well, it's not that very few people are obsessive over it; it's that nobody really cares about the proper use of it.

Regardless, thanks for the compliment. ;D

2/22/2012 #22
Corinne Tate

This is one I'm pretty unclear on:

Using quotation marks when characters tell a story withing a story - like this.

Character 1: first person dialog in present tense

character 2: dialog also in present tense

character 2: recounting past events with his dialog

Character 3: not present but interacting with character 2 in the recounting, and also speaking dialog.

I used quotes for the present tense speaking between the two mains. But when the second character told his story, which involved a third character, it really became confusing. I tried using single quotes, but there were even sentences where the second character was speaking to the first character about what the third character said in response to what he'd said. (Ugh- I'm digging myself in deeper.)

Is this an instance where I should have used Italics? It didn't even occur to me at the time.

2/22/2012 #23
SimonSeville27

For story within a story I do italics. If it's a short quote or something, you can do this:

Jane sat up in her seat, "So I was talking to John and he said, "Get away!' So I left."

The sign that I need to go into italics is when I'm writing the dialogue like a separate chapter of the book. Just a short description of past events can be in quotation marks, but I move to italics when it's full out story-time. When I have a present tense interruption, I stop the italics, go back to normal type, and use quotations for the present tense. Then I may either directly move back into italics or go to quotations then italics depending on whether I am going directly back to the story or if there is a present tense introduction.

I have a really good example of how I deal with it, but I don't want to copy it here because some parts are slightly mature for a forum post. (Well it's not that mature but it's about someone getting abducted which might upset the less thick-skinned.) It's a scene where someone is testifying in court, so it's extremely jumpy between past and present tense. Anyway if you want to look at how I deal with it, it's the sixth chapter of "For Love. For Us. For Brittany." http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7772590/6/For_Love_For_Us_For_Brittany

2/22/2012 #24
Hippothestrowl

mmm... not sure I follow but I think you're talking about a character speaking within double quotes and telling a story within that within single quotes? Then if there is any dialogue within the story then it is within more double quotes?

Dunno. I had a character tell a story in my latest chapter as it happens but there's no dialogue in it. I just used italics [within double quotes] for the lot and made her announce the story in a separate dialogue just before.

[edit Oh I see, simon.seville27 - you used italics without any quotes then remaining in italics to include any dialogue within that account then back to non-italics for the 'present'. In mine I meant italics within double quotes. I'll correct my post for clarity.]

2/22/2012 . Edited 2/22/2012 #25
Corinne Tate

Thanks. I totally forgot I could even use italics. I think it's because I really hate the italics on this site. It's really hard for me to differentiate the regular font from the italics.

I've got another one, and I'm sure someone who's been taught grammar can help me. I encountered this as a beta, and I'm sure I gave her confusing or erroneous advice.

She was telling a first person story in past tense. But there were times when this character spoke of things that happened even before the events he was speaking about. Her sentences went from being mere past tense like "I went to visit my father," to - I can't remember what you call it (30 years out of school.) So her narrative contained statements like: "I had gone to visit my father." The thing is, she was inconsistent in using these, and I wasn't sure what the rule was, and what's correct. Sometimes it looked right, and other times it looked like it was overused. "I had done this, I had done that, we had said this, we had gone there?" Any help?

2/24/2012 #26
SimonSeville27

Well when you say "I had done this" or "We have gone there", it is a much more generalized past tense that is used when you aren't referring to a specific event, but of a generalized statement using unnamed details from your past. So if you say, "I have gone to California." it means at some time in your life you have been there, but if you say, "We went to California.", it is referring to a specific action at a specific time, so it is appropriate for telling stories.

(Oh and it's called the present-perfect tense if I'm not mistaken... might be, but I think that's what it is...)

2/24/2012 #27
Corinne Tate

Can someone point me in the direction of a good online grammar guide? I've been needing to read up on comma usage, but to be honest, I'm afraid of all the grammar terminology I didn't quite understand back in elementary school when it was taught. Things like: Transitive, intransitive, gerund, modifier, antecedent, infinitive, participle, etc. These terms bug the daylights out of me, and stand in my way of learning the rules. I need a simple resource.

It seems I'm not the only one who has these issues. I just received an email from my daughter's sophomore honors English teacher. I counted three grammar mistakes in her two paragraphs. I'm not that great at grammar, but if the English teachers can't get it right, is there hope for the rest of us?

3/3/2012 #28
cathrl

I'd recommend you Google "Ms Nitpicker" and read through her site.

Transitive, intransitive, gerund, modifier, antecedent, infinitive, participle, etc.

Well, I can tell you what an infinitive is... to be honest, provided you can write correct sentences (and a far as I can see, you can) I wouldn't worry about it.

3/3/2012 #29
WOHTP

This is my historic first post on FF.net! :) Hello, world.

While not a grammar guide, the book "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is an interesting read on the usage of various punctuation marks. Highly recommended.

3/4/2012 #30
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