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Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes - Explanations Added

Back to the basics with regular Challenge winner, Ann Grover. Weekly lessons to help you hone your basic writing skills.

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Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes - Explanations Added

Postby Anja » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:50 pm

Semicolons, Colons, and Dashes

I’m currently reading Ursula Hegi’s The Vision of Emma Blau. Hegi is a master at using dashes, colons, and semicolons, so I am going to use excerpts from her books. Then YOU tell ME what you think the pattern is for using dashes, colons, and semicolons.

(I would rather use the word “pattern” instead of “rule,” because application is more important and practical than just memorizing a bunch of rules that mean nothing out of context.)

Find all dashes and semicolons. Find the colons and commas. Why are they there?


He’d urge you to buy American stocks -- railroad and mining and telephone -- while warning you not to make big plans based on shaky optimism: "Ne batissez pas des châteaux en Suede” -- Don’t go building castles in Sweden.


It was small and on the top floor of the same boarding house where -- during his first few months in the city -- he had paid fifty-five cents week to sleep on the chairs and sofas in the parlor with three men from Italy.


Harsh work had catapulted her from being a girl of fifteen to being a woman of sixty-five -- nothing in between for her -- but now that she had leisure for the first time in half a century, she could feel herself growing younger as if her life had opted to reverse itself.


Miss Garland felt certain there had to be community in the house, people who got together and entertained one another; yet, except for the Blaus’ annual tenants’ parties -- Christmas and summer solstice -- she was never invited. It had to be an oversight -- she was sure of it.


One afternoon, when Tobias’ belly hurt because his Aunt Pearl was drinking tea with his mother again, he toddled from them -- they don’t see me they don’t -- and into Greta’s room where the dollhouse was set up on the table.


And for the finale... I’m throwing you in the deep end. ONE very complex sentence, but if you work it out, it becomes clear and simple.


Though she would not forget the pain, she would forget its intensity until two months later when she’d be taken with a sequence of those very same spasms, leaving her chilled and sweaty -- that too was familiar; that too -- on the hottest day of July, no wind at all, the lake sullen beneath the blinding sky; and when Dr. Miles was called to the house -- a month early for the baby to arrive -- the people of Winnipesaukee lit candles for the third wife of Stefan Blau who, as she pushed her child into the world, suddenly wanted to hold back, keep it sheltered because she was terrified it would not be welcomed.


Have fun.
Last edited by Anja on Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby AnneRene' » Sun Mar 28, 2010 11:40 am

Hi Ann,

I missed this post, but have been reading it, reviewing it, and then re-reading it.

Not sure if you wanted feedback, but I cheated :oops: , and googled the dashes; to find out they are, less formal than colons or semicolons?

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Postby choosingjoy » Mon Mar 29, 2010 8:50 pm

Ann, this is quite interesting to me, and I'm not sure. When to use a dash is always puzzling to me. Is it truly a matter of being less formal? :shock:

The dash seems to set things apart in a more stark way, and I'm a bit leery of it, but I just have a "gut" feeling that it needs to be there sometimes. Is that strange? Never mind, don't answer that question. lol :mrgreen:

Thanks for your helps. I'm not really a regular visitor, but need to be. If I can ever get beyond dial-up internet, I will try to buckle down and relearn some grammar. If old dogs can learn new tricks, surely I can do that.
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Postby Green Leaves » Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:54 pm

I didn't read ahead to see what others have said about this posting, so I'm not sure exactly what you want us to do.

It seems to me that the dashes are used when it is something added that is not a necessary part of the sentence, perhaps for descriptive information.

The semi-colons are used when joining two sentences, right?

And the only colon used in your posting was prior to a quotation.

So, am I correct?
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Postby Anja » Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:44 pm

You did exactly what I wanted you to do... you analyzed the sentences.... came up with reasons for the punctuation used.


It seems to me that the dashes are used when it is something added that is not a necessary part of the sentence, perhaps for descriptive information.

The semi-colons are used when joining two sentences, right?


Yes and yes.

Dashes set off parenthetical information... or non-essential material... in the same way a comma might. Lift that portion out and you still have a sentence.

(When you are writing, that is the test. If you don't have a complete sentence after lifting away the "dashed" material, you need to re-write.)


Semicolons join two independent clauses. In other words, two complete sentences that are very closely linked.

She was hungry; she hadn't eaten all day.


Semicolons separate coordinate elements which have been joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) but which are internally punctuated. In other words, see all the commas in the following example? Putting a comma AFTER a province or state is completely correct, but what a mish mash that would be. A semicolon clears up any confusion.

The professional rodeo tour stopped in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Calgary, Alberta; Fort Worth, Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada.



Use a semicolon to punctuate independent clauses which are joined by a coordinating conjunction IF there are many internal commas.

Janis, Tom, Hazel, and Sarah all passed their intermediate exams; but George, Jordan, and Mike will have to go to summer school.




A colon is used after a statement that introduces an explanation or amplification. (See quote in first post.)

There was only one way to deal with the sick, stray dog: call the dog pound.




A colon follows he / she said IF there is a long and formal quotation.

He cleared his throat and said: "Four score and seven years ago..."



Use a colon after a clause which introduces a list. DO NOT use a colon if the clause is not a complete sentence.

My favourite fruits are: apples, cherries, and peaches. INCORRECT

My favourite fruits are the following: apples, cherries, and peaches. CORRECT

My favourite fruits are apples, cherries, and peaches. CORRECT

The fruit salad was made with: apples, cherries, and peaches. INCORRECT



Okay, write some sentences of your own using these three punctuation marks. Write some INCORRECT ones, as well, but tell me which ones are correct or INcorrect.
Last edited by Anja on Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:28 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Green Leaves » Thu Apr 01, 2010 5:59 pm

Sherri, Carissa, and Amy love having their mother come visit; but Patrick, Chad, and Brian may prefer otherwise.

However, my grandchildren--Madison, Olivia, Elijah, and Noah--love getting their grandmother's attention.

My grandchildren are the following: Brandon, Tyler, Hunter, Marquel, Madison, Alexis, Olivia, Elijah, Noah, and Emma.

Oops, I had to come back and edit because I forgot the INCORRECT sentences.

March, April, and May are my favorite months, but January, February, and August are my least.

I love bread, all kinds of bread: wheat, white, rye, and even whole grain. (Maybe this is CORRECT, but I wouldn't have thought it was.) I would normally write:

I love all kinds of bread including wheat, white, rye and even whole grain.

I'm finding it is HARDER writing incorrect statements.

I love flowers blooming in the spring; but weeds are never welcome in our garden. (INCORRECT)

(That should be a comma after spring, correct?)

The following people--the violent, abusive, and slanderous--should not be welcome in polite society. (INCORRECT)

This is incorrect because "the violent, abusive, and slanderous" is essential information, right?

Am I getting the picture?
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Postby Anja » Thu Apr 01, 2010 7:12 pm

I love bread, all kinds of bread: wheat, white, rye, and even whole grain. (Maybe this is CORRECT, but I wouldn't have thought it was.


Yep, this is correct. The clause is a complete sentence, and the list follows the colon. Correct.

Everything else is correct and incorrect... um... correctly incorrect? You know what I mean.

Good job!
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Postby Green Leaves » Thu Apr 01, 2010 10:54 pm

Thanks, Ann, your lessons are sooooooo helpful!
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Postby eireann » Thu Apr 01, 2010 11:15 pm

Why did Ursula leave a space between words and dashes—is this a European version?
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Postby Anja » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:25 am

eireann wrote:Why did Ursula leave a space between words and dashes—is this a European version?


Are you referring to MY preference--designating a dash by needing to use two hyphens--or the space I've left -- for clarity -- between the dash and the fore and aft words?

Ursula doesn't do that; she has a nice long dash, with no spaces between the words and the dashes.

Whatever font I am using requires two "hyphens" to designate a dash.

Clear as mud?

Don't want to lead anyone astray.

(Hyphens are a whole 'nother animal.)
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Postby choosingjoy » Mon Apr 05, 2010 5:46 pm

Hi Ann,

Here goes: I will label them correct or incorrect, according to my understanding, which may be in question. :lol:

The angry mob came nearer - not a familiar face among them - as Ed backed inside and latched the door. (Correct)

Benson - leader of the uprising - and his friends, Jake, Slim, and Ron.
(Incorrect)


There isn't another exit; you'll have to wait patiently in line. (correct)

He didn't like what I said; but refrained from any rebuttal. (Inorrect)


To make that desert, I will need the following ingredients: coconut, pineapple, and brown sugar. (correct)

The star performers are: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. (Incorrect - colon not needed???) :? :? :?


:typing2 Working on it.

Thanks for this lesson
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Postby CatLin » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:35 pm

I have a question: you said dashes were used to set off a parenthetical comment -- why or when would one use dashes instead of parentheses?
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Postby choosingjoy » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:51 pm

:redface2
Oh yeah, and after I get this lesson down, I'll work on my typos. I see that I spelled incorrect incorrectly. lol

Also, dessert is missing an s.

Oh well, one thing at a time.

:heehee


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Postby Anja » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:09 am

choosingjoy wrote:
The angry mob came nearer - not a familiar face among them - as Ed backed inside and latched the door. (Correct)

Benson - leader of the uprising - and his friends, Jake, Slim, and Ron.
(Incorrect)


There isn't another exit; you'll have to wait patiently in line. (correct)

He didn't like what I said; but refrained from any rebuttal. (Inorrect)


To make that desert, I will need the following ingredients: coconut, pineapple, and brown sugar. (correct)

The star performers are: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. (Incorrect - colon not needed???) :? :? :?


ALL correct.

Just remember to use TWO hyphens to make a dash, and no spaces between the words and the dashes. (Some programs will automatically fuse the two hyphens as soon as they are typed. There is no symbol on a keyboard for a dash.)

I hope I've got that clarified now, after trying to make it easier to see / understand by using spaces.
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Postby choosingjoy » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:34 am

Yes, Ann, thanks. I discovered the two hyphen dash thing in writing challenge articles, and just forgot. :idea: It works on my Word program, but not on the forum board, I believe. Also good to be reminded, because it's easy for me to confuse hyphens and dashes, thus I left spaces.
:roll:
Thanks again.
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