Okay, so the title isn’t exactly true. Bear with me… or if you prefer, bare with me. I don’t mind a little nudity now and then. Just keep the arse off the leather, man. Off the leather. (inside joke)
I DO NOT edit my blog posts as much as I should, usually in too big of a hurry to get the information out, so yes, sometimes I make mistakes. We all do.
I say this, because if I didn’t say it, sometimes some wise ass will come along and tell me where I dropped a comma or used too many periods in my ellipses, and of course, they always spell it ellipsis. When they insult my writing and editing, they should at least take the time to use the proper words. Plus, they aren’t periods unless they are being used as periods: like, you know, at the end of a sentence and such. Otherwise, they are just dots. Unless you accidentally killed a fly on your screen, then they are probably fly guts. If you’ll get a sponge, they’ll likely come off.
One of the things that amuses and frustrates me, depending on my mood, is the fact that I can spot a newbie writer a mile away when they send me a manuscript for editing.
How can I spot a newbie?
Because they make all the mistakes *I* used to make. All the mistakes you used to make, or perhaps, maybe, just maybe, you still do make. I still do sometimes, especially when I get in a hurry. I’m occasionally appalled at the rookie mistakes I’ll make when I re-read something I wrote in the flow. But that, my writerly friends, is what editing was invented for. Excuse, let me rephrase: That is for what editing was created. Or something like that.
I have a manuscript for a novel I wrote about 15 years ago… (<— look, it’s an ellipses – or is it an ellipsis? Pop quiz coming in a future blog; pay attention now.) I went back and read that manuscript a few nights ago, at least what I could stomach of it. Man, it was bad. I mean, it was really bad. Funny thing, that. I remember thinking how good it was back then. I remember how everyone else told me how good it was. Liars! Bah! Looking at how my writing has matured, I find it amusing now that back then I thought my writing was good, and now I question whether anything I write is good enough.
Funny how perspectives change.
Now… (<— look, another one!)
Back to semicolons.
One thing it seems newbie writers use frequently to try to show they know about writing is to use the mysterious semicolon. It’s like so many newbs seem to think that the semicolon is the mark of a real writer, and if they can throw one in there, they are above the masses, who actually don’t generally use semicolons.
Now…(<—gosh, I’m full of them today!) I like to write with a natural flow, more like I’m talking to you, telling a story. I like the natural ebb and flow of the lilting voice in my writing. I think it makes my writing easy to read and more relatable (<—Yes, I know that’s not a good word – it’s another Michyism.)
Basically, when I talk, I use commas (short pauses between thoughts and phrases to clarify intent), and I use periods (longer pauses between sentences so that you are able to take a breath and not die from asphyxiation when you’re trying to get a word in edgewise, particularly useful when speaking to your spouse, but not as useful when speaking to your teen child, because if you do, they use the pause as advantage to start speaking and stop listening, and that’s not really what you want, because then you’ll never get back control of the situation, and when that happens, well, all hell breaks loose… Wait. What was I talking about? Right, right, semicolons.
Okay…(<—- wow) I speak in commas, periods, and sometimes question marks and exclamation points, but I do not speak in semicolons. Yes, they have their place; they do. When creating a list of items in one sentence that requires the use of a comma separator for one or more list items, you would use the commas for the individual items and separate the items with a semi-colon.
For example: Michy, who is a writer extraordinary; her son, who is a brat fantastic; her daughter, who is the incredible missing person; and her love, her most favorite person, her best friend, who happens to be Jake the Dog, much to Ryan’s chagrin… (<—had to throw one in there) are all happy to be awake.
There you go. Proper use of a semicolon in a list with item comas. Or is that commas? I’d have definitely fallen into a comma by reading that. Or is that comas?
(shrug) (<—-a self created emoticon)
(Emoticon – n. sing. – A robot transformer, who was defeated by the decepticons in the great war.)
Other than that particular use of a semicolon, I don’t personally think a writer ever NEEDS to use a semicolon. But if you feel you absolutely MUST prove to the editor that you are such a professional writer that you can wield the power of the almighty semicolon, for grammar’s sake, please use it properly!
So glad you asked.
You did ask, didn’t you?
Okay….(<— lookey there!)
A semicolon separates TWO COMPLETE SENTENCES that are closely related in meaning and intent, and usually without a conjunction. Personally, I think you should just use two sentences. However, I have occasionally used a semicolon here or there when the sentences were really short ones, or when one was longer and one was really short (two or three words), and it related to the other sentence. If you could place the word AND (or some other conjunction or joining or linking words) between two complete sentences and make a compound sentence out of it – if you remove the AND (or some other conjunction or joining or linking words) – you can replace it with a semicolon and be grammatically correct.
If, however, you would not put an AND (or some other conjunction or joining or linking words) in there because the two sentences aren’t related to each other, so they wouldn’t work in a compound sentence, then the semicolon doesn’t work. See? Easy as pie (which I’ve never understood, ’cause pie is damned hard to make if you want to make it right. I love millionaire’s pie and warm gooey pecan pie is yummy too).
Here’s a good rule to follow with semicolons: If you aren’t absolutely positive about how to use one, DON’T. Using a semicolon to impress an editor with your vast writing knowledge being more than the masses of degenerate and illiterate public, when said editor has been trained and educated in the proper use of semicolons, will not, in fact, impress said editor.
Instead, it will make said editor come to her blogs and post an entire blog post about how silly your semicolon looked. Like THAT would ever happen in real life.
And just to drive you insane(r):
Love and stuff,