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Thread: Run on sentences and other sentence structure

  1. #11
    Vonnegut had a point. Usage of the semi-colon is dependant upon whether the two sentences are related to each other. If they're directly related to each other, they should really be separated with a conjunction. If they're indirectly related, you can use the semi-colon. Of course, if what follows in the second sentence is a logical progression from the first, i.e. an example, you should use a colon.

    Yeah, just stick to the blasted em-dash and let the 'intellectuals' worry about their semi-colons.
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  2. #12
    WF Veteran Bilston Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lasm View Post
    Oh, fun thread. I love grammar and syntax. I've been going through my work and breaking up run-on sentences, as well as trying to cut down on my semi-colon usage. So here's one sentence that I find too long, but haven't figured out how to break down in a nice way:

    Similarly, a specific kind of tense frown in front of his mother would arrest any commentary, any intervention she tried to make in the processes of his logic when he spoke to her too openly, as he often did, because she was the only person who he thought might understand.

    Suggestions?
    I was going to think of an example of where I might use an em dash, and you stopped by and did it for me. It put an em dash in here:

    Similarly, a specific kind of tense frown in front of his mother would arrest any commentary, any intervention she tried to make in the processes of his logic when he spoke to her too openly—as he often did—because she was the only person who he thought might understand.

    I use them to separate a clause in the sentence which isn't directly related, like the narrator just breaks off his train of thought for a second. Apart from those em dashes, I'd leave it as it is.
    "I think a life is a plot. It's probably the elementary plot. I came across a quotation of Patrick White, the Australian writer, just about the time I needed it. He said he never bothers with plot. He just writes about life 'limping along toward death.' That made me feel much better, to keep this in my mind."

    Carol Shields.

  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by JosephB View Post
    You can use an em dash to connect two independent but related clauses. I almost always prefer that to the semicolon.
    I like to think I have excellent grammar, but the em dash has always caused me trouble. I think I'm foggy about it because it was never really addressed in school when I was learning the rest. Here are a few examples that I wouldn't mind some insight with.

    She was little more than a relic of a bygone era – but she was an indestructible relic.

    Above, the em dash replaces a comma. I used it because I wanted to indicate a stronger pause, and a semicolon wouldn't have been correct. Is this okay?

    Once, the Guardian had been his alter ego – his escape from the world.

    In this example, I use the em dash to offset a repeated/clarified concept. Is there a better way to do this? Would a colon be more proper?

    "Squad 49, heavy troopers – decommissioned."

    Another example of colon/em dash confusion. Which is correct?

    "I'm from France – well, specifically Rouen."

    The em dash here shows an abrupt break, indicative of the character's tendency to cut herself off mid-sentence. Is the spacing around the em dash correct? Any other thoughts?

    "Schwartz, I’ve fixed your sword–" he began.

    This is similar to the preceding example, but now there's no second half of the sentence. Assuming the form is correct, how should this be formatted? Should there be a space between the last word and the em dash, or not?

    "But as long as you’re out there, you’re putting yourself – and everyone else – in danger."

    And here we have yet another use - offsetting a pseudo-parenthetical. (I'm not even sure my em dash in the first sentence of this paragraph is correct. Should it be a colon instead?) Is this acceptable formatting, or is there a better way to write this sentence? How's the spacing around the em dash?

    Maion and Forfax rose above him – one impassively majestic, one glowering like a gargoyle.

    I'm not sure what the em dash is doing in this sentence (that is, whether it's replacing a comma, a colon, or something else), but it feels okay. Is it?

    The rigors of marching through Europe, his constant failures in both an exo and a Guardian, the losses suffered by the HDF, the injury of Evert, the pain of Julie, the death of Edmond – all added up to make that summer the most traumatic period of Markus’s life.

    Another example of the em dash being used because it "feels" right, rather than because I believe it's grammatically correct. Strictly speaking, you could remove it and stick an "and" before the last item in the list, and the sentence would be correct. ("...the pain of Julie, and the death of Edmond all added up...") However, that doesn't really convey the sentence pacing as I read it in my head.

    As you can all see, I have quite a bit of difficulty with proper em dash usage. Any help you guys can offer would be great.

    Incidentally, I'm seeing another questionable thing as I'm rereading this post. How should spacing be handled before and after a parenthetical in between two complete sentences? I type the period of the first sentence, space twice (once after question marks and exclamation points), type the parenthetical, and space two more times after the closing parenthesis before starting the next sentence. Is this correct? If not, what's the right way to do it?
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  4. #14
    That's why the em-dash is so popular. It's a writer's Swiss-Army knife. Can be used in place of a comma, a semi-colon, a colon. About the only thing it can't replace is a full stop.
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  5. #15
    "Schwartz, I’ve fixed your sword–" he began
    That's the only place I think it shouldn't be used. At a quick glance, I'd say they work fine in your other examples. I just go with my gut and by how it sounds when I read it aloud. But that's pretty much how I do everything.

  6. #16
    Member Euripides's Avatar
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    Oh man, this thread is making me want to have a punctuation inspired nervous breakdown.

    Thank you for starting this thread. The proper use of punctuation has always been a mysetry to me. At least, anything other than a period or an occasional comma. I also have issues with identifying run on sentences.

  7. #17
    [QUOTE=Gamer_2k4;1540741]I like to think I have excellent grammar, but the em dash has always caused me trouble. I think I'm foggy about it because it was never really addressed in school when I was learning the rest. Here are a few examples that I wouldn't mind some insight with.

    She was little more than a relic of a bygone era – but she was an indestructible relic.

    Above, the em dash replaces a comma. I used it because I wanted to indicate a stronger pause, and a semicolon wouldn't have been correct. Is this okay?

    Nothing wrong with that. You used it for emphasis as well as a stronger pause.

    Once, the Guardian had been his alter ego – his escape from the world.

    In this example, I use the em dash to offset a repeated/clarified concept. Is there a better way to do this? Would a colon be more proper?

    You could use a semi-colon here, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with a dash.

    "Squad 49, heavy troopers – decommissioned."

    Another example of colon/em dash confusion. Which is correct?

    Here, it's replacing a colon. You could use one instead, but again it's a no-issue.

    "I'm from France – well, specifically Rouen."

    The em dash here shows an abrupt break, indicative of the character's tendency to cut herself off mid-sentence. Is the spacing around the em dash correct? Any other thoughts?

    You could use an ellipsis instead. By the way: When a space is left between the words, you use an 'en-dash'. That's the smaller brother of the em-dash. Either is right, but em-dashes look like this: "Miles from the nearest cityaway from all the trappings of city lifeByron Giles' cabin sat on its own, surrounded by trees and foliage". No spaces.

    "Schwartz, I’ve fixed your sword–" he began.

    This is similar to the preceding example, but now there's no second half of the sentence. Assuming the form is correct, how should this be formatted? Should there be a space between the last word and the em dash, or not?

    It should be like this: "Schwartz, I've fixed your sword - " he began. This is an en-dash. You always take a space before and after one. Em-dashes are very rarely used to indicate an interruption.

    "But as long as you’re out there, you’re putting yourself – and everyone else – in danger."

    And here we have yet another use - offsetting a pseudo-parenthetical. (I'm not even sure my em dash in the first sentence of this paragraph is correct. Should it be a colon instead?) Is this acceptable formatting, or is there a better way to write this sentence? How's the spacing around the em dash?

    This is another offset sentence with an en-dash. Spaces before and after. You could also use an em-dash without the spaces.

    Maion and Forfax rose above him – one impassively majestic, one glowering like a gargoyle.

    I'm not sure what the em dash is doing in this sentence (that is, whether it's replacing a comma, a colon, or something else), but it feels okay. Is it?

    It's being used in place of a colon or a full stop. All three are fine.

    The rigors of marching through Europe, his constant failures in both an exo and a Guardian, the losses suffered by the HDF, the injury of Evert, the pain of Julie, the death of Edmond – all added up to make that summer the most traumatic period of Markus’s life.

    Another example of the em dash being used because it "feels" right, rather than because I believe it's grammatically correct. Strictly speaking, you could remove it and stick an "and" before the last item in the list, and the sentence would be correct. ("...the pain of Julie, and the death of Edmond all added up...") However, that doesn't really convey the sentence pacing as I read it in my head.

    This one is a little more complicated. Your en-dash can work there, but if I was doing it, I'd do it like this:

    The rigors of marching through Europe; his constant failures in both an exo and a Guardian, the losses suffered by the HDF, the injury of Evert, the pain of Julie, the death of Edmond - they all added up to make that summer the most traumatic period of Markus’s life.

    As you can all see, I have quite a bit of difficulty with proper em dash usage. Any help you guys can offer would be great.

    I'm not sure what you mean by your last question. Can you give an example?
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  8. #18
    WF Veteran Bilston Blue's Avatar
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    Hey, Gamer

    At the risk of being a grammatical anorak, those are en dashes you're using. Em dashes are longer (or wider), as m is wider than n. I'm not sure of the differences in their correct usage, just that they're two separate things with two separate uses. I see far more em dashes than en dashes in literature. Come to think of it, I don't see many of the shorter ones at all.

    An em dash will tend to have no space between itself and the words immediately before or after it. It can be typed into an ms word document by typing two consecutive dashes followed immediately by the next word. It appears as two dashes, then when you hit space to create the next space it converts to a longer, single line dash. Et voila; the em dash.

    Sorry if you already knew that. It's all I know so I like to share it. And sorry if this is all waffle. Waffle is good.



    EDIT: I didn't see Sam's reply. Sorry.
    "I think a life is a plot. It's probably the elementary plot. I came across a quotation of Patrick White, the Australian writer, just about the time I needed it. He said he never bothers with plot. He just writes about life 'limping along toward death.' That made me feel much better, to keep this in my mind."

    Carol Shields.

  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Bilston Blue View Post
    Hey, Gamer

    At the risk of being a grammatical anorak, those are en dashes you're using. Em dashes are longer (or wider), as m is wider than n. I'm not sure of the differences in their correct usage, just that they're two separate things with two separate uses. I see far more em dashes than en dashes in literature. Come to think of it, I don't see many of the shorter ones at all.

    An em dash will tend to have no space between itself and the words immediately before or after it. It can be typed into an ms word document by typing two consecutive dashes followed immediately by the next word. It appears as two dashes, then when you hit space to create the next space it converts to a longer, single line dash. Et voila; the em dash.

    Sorry if you already knew that. It's all I know so I like to share it. And sorry if this is all waffle. Waffle is good.



    EDIT: I didn't see Sam's reply. Sorry.
    What? I keel you!

    You can also make a en-dash by using CTRL and the dash key found in the very right-hand corner, second row from the top of your numerical keypad. You can make an em-dash by using CTRL, ALT, and the dash symbol. You don't have a numerical keypad. Oh. I keel you!
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  10. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by Gamer_2k4 View Post
    Once, the Guardian had been his alter ego – his escape from the world.
    I'd use a comma instead of the em dash here. The rest of your examples looked like acceptable dash usage to me.

    On the parentheses question: It sounds like you're doing this correctly, though I don't think you need two spaces. Personally I'd try to instead introduce the sentence with "On a side note," or something like that, because that's what you're conveying with the parentheses anyway.

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