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Thread: semi-colon

  1. #1
    chum is offline Member
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    Default semi-colon

    I read that semicolon is used the way period is used :

    1. Willie sees the bird
    Frank hears the noise

    Willie sees the bird; Frank hears the noise

    Q : Is this considered one sentence?

    2. how do we punctuate words of transitions? Like therefore, however.
    I felt sick
    Therefore I stayed home.

    Q : are commas ok to combine these sentences?and when we combine, does it show the relation of the two sentences?
    Q: Do semi-colons show that they are related? Because I read that we can join two sentences using semi-colons but we cannot combine?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    The term "sentence" is actually very vague. It is a syntactically dependent unit, which has at least one finite verb and a subject (which may be implied). What we usually mean by a sentence is a unit that begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop (period, if you're American), or an exclamation mark or a question mark. A unit that includes a subject and a verb phrase can be usefully called a clause.

    Thus, if we say "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears the noise", we have one sentence with two clauses.

    The semicolon is not a replacement for the colon. Semicolons are used primarily to separate what are called contact clauses.

    We can combine clauses into longer sentences in a number of ways. We can have relative clauses:

    The woman who is wearing the yellow hat is the Duchess.

    We can have subordinate clauses:

    If I had a choice, I wouldn't be here.

    And we can have coordinate clauses:

    Willie sees the bird and Frank hears the noise.

    Coordinate clauses are joined together into longer sentences using a coordinating conjuction: usually "and", "or" or "but". If we omit this conjunction, we have a sentence with two contact clauses -- and that's when we need the semicolon.

    In your second example, you have a conjunction, so you shouldn't use the semicolon: "I felt sick, therefore I stayed home". Again, you can omit the conjunction, and then you get contact clauses: "I felt sick; I stayed at home."

    Using commas instead of semicolons is frowned upon; you get what are called "run-on sentences", and they are considered inelegant and, by some, illiterate.

  3. #3
    ladybug440 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    I have another sem-colon question.

    I am a transcriptionist and I work for a company with constantly changing punctuation rules. One thing they can't seem to agree on is the use of the semi-colon.

    I do court transcription where lawyers are famous for ending sentences with "weren't you?" or "didn't you?"

    Do you need a semi-colon before it as in: You went to the party also on that day didn't you?

    I don't consider "didn't you" to be an independent clause and therefore it shouldn't require one, but now my boss is wanting one as in:

    You went to the party also on that day; didn't you?


    It's driving us all crazy. Can somebody clear it up for us? Thank you.

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    Default Re: semi-colon

    It's always been a comma. I've never seen a semicolon used in that manner before.

  5. #5
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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    The term "sentence" is actually very vague. It is a syntactically dependent unit, which has at least one finite verb and a subject (which may be implied). What we usually mean by a sentence is a unit that begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop (period, if you're American), or an exclamation mark or a question mark. A unit that includes a subject and a verb phrase can be usefully called a clause.

    Thus, if we say "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears the noise", we have one sentence with two clauses.

    The semicolon is not a replacement for the colon. Semicolons are used primarily to separate what are called contact clauses.

    We can combine clauses into longer sentences in a number of ways. We can have relative clauses:

    The woman who is wearing the yellow hat is the Duchess.

    We can have subordinate clauses:

    If I had a choice, I wouldn't be here.

    And we can have coordinate clauses:

    Willie sees the bird and Frank hears the noise.

    Coordinate clauses are joined together into longer sentences using a coordinating conjuction: usually "and", "or" or "but". If we omit this conjunction, we have a sentence with two contact clauses -- and that's when we need the semicolon.

    In your second example, you have a conjunction, so you shouldn't use the semicolon: "I felt sick, therefore I stayed home". Again, you can omit the conjunction, and then you get contact clauses: "I felt sick; I stayed at home."

    Using commas instead of semicolons is frowned upon; you get what are called "run-on sentences", and they are considered inelegant and, by some, illiterate.
    I may be misunderstanding what you're saying, but "therefore" is a conjunctive adverb, not a conjunction. Therefore, it needs at least a semicolon before it.
    I felt sick; therefore, I stayed home.
    I felt sick. Therefore, I stayed home.
    With only a comma, we have a comma splice.

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    ladybug440 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    It's always been a comma. I've never seen a semicolon used in that manner before.
    That's was I was thinking. Thank you.

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    Default Re: semi-colon

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I may be misunderstanding what you're saying, but "therefore" is a conjunctive adverb, not a conjunction. Therefore, it needs at least a semicolon before it.
    Hmm. That would appear to be true, but does this look right to you?

    I think; therefore, I am.

    It looks overpunctuated to me, and yet you're right -- it is indeed a conjunctive adverb, and therefore this is the correct way to punctuate that sentence.

    Er... no wait... it is indeed a conjunctive adverb, and, therefore, this is...

    err... a conjunctive adverb; and therefore, this is...

    Well, nobody said punctuation rules were easy. Here we have different rules and requirements clashing, and the modern tendency is to use less punctuation than, say, 150 years ago. In this case, omitting "and" helps:

    ...it is indeed a conjunctive adverb; therefore, this is...

  8. #8
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    Quote Originally Posted by rewboss View Post
    Hmm. That would appear to be true, but does this look right to you?

    I think; therefore, I am.

    It looks overpunctuated to me, and yet you're right -- it is indeed a conjunctive adverb, and therefore this is the correct way to punctuate that sentence.

    Er... no wait... it is indeed a conjunctive adverb, and, therefore, this is...

    err... a conjunctive adverb; and therefore, this is...

    Well, nobody said punctuation rules were easy. Here we have different rules and requirements clashing, and the modern tendency is to use less punctuation than, say, 150 years ago. In this case, omitting "and" helps:

    ...it is indeed a conjunctive adverb; therefore, this is...
    I agree about "Cogito ergo sum". The one exception to comma splice rules is the use of two intimately related very short clause. Under that exception, "I think, therefore I am" is acceptable.

    I do a lot of editing (scientific manuscripts). By far, the most common punctuation error I encounter is the comma splice with conjunctive adverbs. And, the two biggest offenders are "therefore" and "however".

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    mykwyner is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: semi-colon

    I think we need to get back to chum's original question.

    I would grade the sentence, "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears the noise," as incorrect usage. That sentence does not express a single coherent idea. If you mean that Willie sees the bird when Frank hears the noise, then say that.

    "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears it," would be a fine sentence because it conveys a single thought about how the two men experience the bird with their senses. In fact, I get a distinct image of a deaf man and a blind man together in a park.

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    Default Re: semi-colon

    Quote Originally Posted by mykwyner View Post
    I think we need to get back to chum's original question.

    I would grade the sentence, "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears the noise," as incorrect usage. That sentence does not express a single coherent idea. If you mean that Willie sees the bird when Frank hears the noise, then say that.

    "Willie sees the bird; Frank hears it," would be a fine sentence because it conveys a single thought about how the two men experience the bird with their senses. In fact, I get a distinct image of a deaf man and a blind man together in a park.
    IMO, those two clauses could be very closely related, depending on context.
    This could be in a piece about our senses. Willie and Frank both notice a bird in a tree. Willie sees; Frank hears. That would be perfectly fine with me.

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