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Semicolons, apostrophes, quotation marks and so on
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 4:16 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 14

No matter how much grammar is standardised, it is an evolving universe all by itself, and so in different parts of the world (or even in different generations) writing rules some times seem dramatically different!

No one can say outright that the other is 'wrong' because how you write English in the UK is not how it's done in Africa, USA or India.
However, other threads are discussing these matters. 

In this one, I would like to know the individual preferences for formats you use to construct your prose.

In a too long sentence, do you use semicolons a lot or (like me) take help of parenthesis and dashes -they really are quite useful!- to keep the flow of words steady?
I noticed that in older English classics, the use of dashes is quite frequent. They did have a lot to say!

I noticed that this irritates some reviewers because they feel that the string of the narration gets lost with too many inserts.
I agree that, badly done, it does affect the flow of the narration. 
But think P.G. Wodehouse, Jules Verne or even Jane Austen! They had whole paragraphs in brackets and between dashes!

Also, what about quotation marks? I have already had it pointed out that my use of single quotation marks is...um, incorrect\unclear\disturbing.

But I like my single quotations! (' ') Grammar teachers in school taught me that it's an appropriate alternative to double quotes. (" ")
Somehow my characters talk better between single quotes. (Does that make sense?)

There are many other such apparently small issues that become points on which your editors may later chastise you. Since we have an opportunity here to find out what other writers think, I figured this is a good topic to post.

Tawni Peterson
Posted: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 2:52 PM
Joined: 5/10/2011
Posts: 69

I make much use of the semicolon and the comma. I want my writing to read like an actual conversation, so it must flow. Sometimes we speak in long run-on sentences, sometimes short ones. Certainly, there are standard grammar rules, etc. to follow, but I have seen them broken by many professionals in an effective way. I think it depends largely on style and the setting/mood you are writing. I am admittedly NOT a form stickler, so I am likely on one end of a very broad spectrum in this opinion.
Posted: Monday, October 10, 2011 5:24 PM
Joined: 4/29/2011
Posts: 3

The key to me is whether my choices will distract the reader. Since single quotes are not the norm, I won't use them. I don't think that makes me old-fashioned.

I've been reading some self-published books lately and am appalled at the liberties these (often young) writers take with standard sentence structure and grammar. I find it very distracting and instead of focusing on their story, I'm constantly on the look-out for additional problems.

IMHO a good writer ought to be able to fit h/h thoughts into standard language rules and structure. Exceptions ought to be rare and crucial to the story.
Posted: Monday, October 10, 2011 9:05 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

I hope this doesn't sound weird, but I use the tool that works for the sentence at any given time. I think the only one I don't use is ( ) in fictional writing. I find it stands out and distracts. The em dash is my friend, and I love the flexibility offered by the ;. The comma has to be used with care. I know I use them far too much. Sometimes it is better to have a new sentence if I'm getting ot the point I have more than one or two commas. (Unless, of course, it is for a list. Then commas are more than welcomed.)

Punctuation is our friend.

It is the difference between 'Lets eat Grandma' and 'Lets eat, Grandma'. My opinion is simple; do what you need to write clearly, concisely, and entertain.

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