May 22, 2018 at 2:59 pm #346990
Perhaps, I used the semi-colon to imitate authors of classic literature; it made my writing look more intellectual, more sophisticated, but what I didn’t know was that I had been abusing the semi-colon.
This abuse with the semi-colon has gone as far back as college: I had been informed by a professor about a paper I had written. He said that I had used the semi-colon correctly up until a certain point in the paper.
I don’t have the paper, but I guess his point about the semi-colons in it hadn’t quite sunken in yet.
I officially had to face this problem of abusing the semi-colon years later just after I had published my first work of fiction, a collection of three novellas.
I guess I had taken it for granted that the publisher would take care of all the copy editing—until I had received a telephone call from a good friend who had bought the book and read it. Although she had enjoyed the book, she told me that the book was just riddled with errors—not so much errors in the story, thank God, but with all the typos, which were very distracting, but luckily for me, she didn’t hold me responsible.
I went through the book, and she was right: An average of three typos plagued every page. “One book”, I think, should average only three typos!
I immediately telephoned my publisher in Texas who had informed me that copy editing wasn’t their responsibility.
Thank God it wasn’t too late to correct all the typos.
As I went through the book page by page I began to notice just how many semi-colons I had used. I mean they were everywhere, on almost every page. I noticed how cluttered it made my sentences look—not sophisticated at all. Clearly I had not used the semi-colon correctly or in moderation.
Page by page, I began trading semi-colons for periods; where a semi-colon was I replaced it with a period.
Now, of course, I didn’t sweep the entire book of semi-colons, but I had swept up alot of them.
I guess that process—going through the manuscript and getting rid of all the unnecessary semi-colons—was time I spent in semi-colon anonymous.
Having gone through semi-colon anonymous, I am, by no means, an expert on the semi-colon. I still use it—somethings more than I probably should—but I do try to use it in moderation.
If there is one author I think uses the semi-colon correctly that author is mystery novelist Carl Hiaasen. Not only does he begin each sentence with the preposition “On” he also uses the semi-colon quite sparingly.
I don’t know what rule Hiassen uses with the semi-colon, if he even has a rule, if he even needs a rule, but the rule I have now with the semi-colon is that if I can eliminate the semi-colon all together, I do. I split the sentence up into two sentences. This practice has led me to believe that a perfectly clean sentence is a sentence with as little punctuation as possible, including the comma and with exception to, of course, the period.
Short simple sentences, at least for me, are the way to write. They will keep you out of trouble like the trouble I had with abusing the semi-colon.
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