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Guest Dabeagle

Commas!

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Great!

This true story is not really about commas, but I thought it's in the spirit of the discussion.

At the local market, one of the produce stalls which was owned by seven brothers, proudly had the name "7 Brothers" on all their pricing signs.

Usually they read:

7 Brothers

Apples $2 kilo

However, one week the sign on the banana display simply read:

7 Brothers

$2

The woman behind the counter got very irate when I innocently asked, "How much for one brother?"

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Funny thing, I have been teased on numerous occasions for my use of commas. I guess there can be too many, huh?

One of the grace notes of fiction, if we are able to acknowledge that good writing is not necessarily governed by strict rules, is commas. They improve written dialogue immensely, when they are used not only grammatically but also "naturally" to indicate and imitate the way we speak aloud in real life--that is, with pauses and hesitations and interruptions to take a breath or take a thought. Commas have been used this way for literally centuries by the poets, who early on grasped that commas introduced rhythm and sustained metre. Human speech, in whatever language, also falls into rhythmic patterns and phrases broken naturally for the purpose of emphasis and underscoring. As writers we should celebrate commas, and never be afraid to use them with controlled abandon.

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Just don't use the dreaded semi-colon. I had a creative writing teacher once tell me, "the road to hell is paved with semi-colons."

Haha. I tell my kids the opposite - if you can use a semi-colon correctly in a paper, you instantly get bonus points (though I have had to specifiy that the correct use of a semicolon is not the first half of a sideways winking face).

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Haha. I tell my kids the opposite - if you can use a semi-colon correctly in a paper, you instantly get bonus points (though I have had to specifiy that the correct use of a semicolon is not the first half of a sideways winking face).

I tend to use them sparingly in non-fiction, but god help you in fiction. It's very hard for me to think of a case where just a regular period won't work every bit as well as a semi-colon.

I don't dispute that there's a right way to use them and a wrong way.

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A semi-colon is just one of many tools in our writing kit. Each tool has a purpose. You wouldn't want to use a hammer to extract a splinter; tweezers work much better. Similarly, a wisely used semi-colon can do a specific job very neatly. Using one to separate two closely-related independent clauses can mark the writer as at least having some idea of what he's about, and give the reader confidence that perhaps what is being read will be worth the time invested in it.

C

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A semi-colon is just one of many tools in our writing kit. Each tool has a purpose. You wouldn't want to use a hammer to extract a splinter; tweezers work much better. Similarly, a wisely used semi-colon can do a specific job very neatly. Using one to separate two closely-related independent clauses can mark the writer as at least having some idea of what he's about, and give the reader confidence that perhaps what is being read will be worth the time invested in it.

Note that you wrote this entire paragraph without having used a semicolon. (BTW, one space between sentences with proportional fonts. My brother the graphic artist would kill us both if we saw us using two spaces.)

I think semicolons can be useful, but only sparingly, and only on very rare occasions.

Consider:

I gazed at him from afar; for all I know, an hour or two might have passed, but perhaps it was just mere minutes.

I think the sentence works just as well with a period. I'm not a big fan of it in fiction, but again, I concede that there's a right way and a wrong way to use them.

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon

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Note that you wrote this entire paragraph without having used a semicolon. (BTW, one space between sentences with proportional fonts. My brother the graphic artist would kill us both if we saw us using two spaces.)

I think semicolons can be useful, but only sparingly, and only on very rare occasions.

Consider:

I gazed at him from afar; for all I know, an hour or two might have passed, but perhaps it was just mere minutes.

I think the sentence works just as well with a period. I'm not a big fan of it in fiction, but again, I concede that there's a right way and a wrong way to use them.

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon

Well, actually, there is a semi-colon in what I wrote. I put it there intentionally. The fact it wasn't very visible sort of proves my point: a well-used one become generic and not a bit offensive.

The thing is, I learned to type way, way, way before word processors were even someone's dream. I learned to insert two spaces after a period, and it's automatic. It's ingrained in my very DNA at this point. If it offends a graphic or any other sort of artist, no matter how closely related, I'd advise him not to read what I write.

C

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The thing is, I learned to type way, way, way before word processors were even someone's dream. I learned to insert two spaces after a period, and it's automatic. It's ingrained in my very DNA at this point.

I learned to type on a typewriter, so I also learned to double-space after a period. It took me YEARS to break that habit.

It's just so satisfying to double-tap that space bar after a sentence. It feels like...closure. "That thought is complete. So sayeth the thumb. POW POW."

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