Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Okay, I don't frequently post movie trailers on the blog (Read: This is the first time)....

But THIS is The HOBBIT!

Need I say more?

Enjoy it, Precious!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Common Misuses of Semicolons (5/5)

So far, we have discussed what a semicolon is, why it is important, and how we can use it. In this final post of the series, we are going to do a quick overview of a few of the most common misuses of semicolons.


1. Never use semicolons to introduce a series.

Incorrect:

The following people will moderate this discussion; Nina, Adam, Lindsey, and Trace.

Correct:

The following people will moderate this discussion: Nina, Adam, Lindsey, and Trace.

2. Never use semicolons to link independent clauses with dependent clauses. (Click here to view the post discussing the difference between independent and dependent clauses)

Incorrect:

As soon as I saw the look on his face; I knew it was bad.

Correct:

As soon as I saw the look on his face, I knew it was bad.

3. Do not overuse semicolons. If used too often, they become a distraction or, in some cases, a hindrance to the reader. Overuse leads to tedious, flat, or even choppy writing. Don’t be afraid of the semicolon, but do use it sparingly. If incorporated properly, it can strengthen your sentence structure and give you variety. Otherwise, it can and *will* be a detriment to your writing.

Remember: Semicolons are only used to link independent clauses or to separate items in a series.

This wraps up the final post in the five-part semicolon series. Thank you all so much for reading. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comment box below. As a reminder, I do take requests for future "Grammatically Yours" posts. Email me or leave a comment below if you have a grammar concept that you would like me to address.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Five: Common Misuses of Semicolons <you are here>

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Linking Independent Clauses with Transitional Words (Semicolons 4/5)

Yesterday, we discussed using a semicolon to link two closely related independent clauses. The semicolon gives equal weight to the two clauses and establishes their balanced relationship.


Today, we are going to build on yesterday’s discussion by talking about transitional words and phrases.

Sometimes when joining two independent clauses with a semicolon, a transitional word or phrase is needed to further establish the relationship of the two clauses. For instance, the relationship between the two clauses may be one of agreement or disagreement. Or perhaps the first clause is putting forth a certain idea and the second clause is revealing the result or consequence of that idea. These simple words and phrases make it easy to establish these relationships in a way that is clear to the reader.

Examples:

The enemy was closing in on us; indeed they were practically within slashing distance.

Plunging into the middle of that conversation was probably not the best idea you’ve had; on the contrary, it was probably the stupidest.

Transitional words and phrases may or may not be followed by a comma. If they are so closely connected to the second clause that a pause in unnecessary, the comma may be left out. However, if the word or phrase causes a major break (a distinct pause when read), the comma should be included.

**Note: A few transitional words and phrases are always followed by a comma. These include for example, for instance, however, namely, and that is.

There are a *lot* of transitional words and phrases, but the following table contains a few of the more common ones:

Accordingly
Although
As a result
Consequently
For example
For instance
Furthermore
However
In contrast
In fact
Indeed
Instead
Likewise
Meanwhile
Moreover
Namely
Nevertheless
Of course
On the contrary
Otherwise
Similarly
Still
That is
Then
Therefore
Thus
Undoubtedly

**Note: Do not confuse transitional words and phrases with coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, yet). These are two very different groups of words.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Four: Linking Independent Clauses with Transitional Words <you are here>

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grammatically Yours – Linking Closely Related Independent Clauses (Semicolons 3/5)

Yesterday, we discussed the difference between independent and dependent clauses. Today, we will be focusing on independent clauses, for they are the only type of clauses that can be linked together using semicolons.

Oftentimes, two independent clauses are linked by a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet). If they are not linked in this way, they frequently are not linked at all. Instead, the two clauses are made into independent sentences separated by a period.

However, when two independent clauses are closely related to each other a semicolon may be used to link them. In these cases, the second clause is an extension of the ideas contained in the first. The two clauses have a very particular, balanced relationship.

Here are a couple of examples that use all three methods discussed above:

I’m returning to the magistrate, and you are coming with me.

I’m returning to the magistrate. You are coming with me.

I’m returning to the magistrate; you are coming with me.

-----------

He was larger, but she was faster.

He was larger. She was faster.

He was larger; she was faster.

Usually, a semicolon is not used with a coordinating conjunction. But on rare occasions, this particular construction aids with readability and makes the break between independent clauses more clear.

There are two main reasons for this exception: 1) the two independent clauses are exceedingly complex or long, and 2) one or both of the independent clauses already contain several commas.

Example:

Their country had the largest fleet, the fastest cavalry, and the finest infantry of the three lands; but numbers, strength, or training would not aid them in this fight.

Though this exception exists, most of time it would be best to separate the two clauses and make them into independent sentences.

Their country had the largest fleet, the fastest cavalry, and the finest infantry of the three lands. But numbers, strength, or training would not aid them in this fight.

Tomorrow, we will be discussing how to link independent clauses using transitional words. I hope to see you then!

Note: In writing, punctuation can aid in the creation of mood just as easily as the words themselves. Keep this in mind when choosing when or where to add semicolons. Sometimes a semicolon will work; sometimes it won’t work.

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Three: Linking Closely Related Independent Clauses <you are here>

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grammatically Yours – What’s in a Clause? Independent versus Dependent (Semicolons 2/5)

Before we go any further with semicolons, we need to address the difference between an independent and a dependent clause.

So, what *is* the difference?

The name says it all.

An independent clause is able to stand on its own, and it contains all the important stuff needed to make it a sentence – a subject, a verb, and a complete thought (complements, modifiers, etc., may or may not be present). A dependent clause has a subject and a verb, but it does not express a complete thought and is unable to stand on its own as a sentence.

Independent clause = sentence
Dependent clause = something else that isn’t a sentence

Here is an example of a dependent clause:

When we entered the room

Something is missing, right?

This group of words does not express a complete thought and cannot stand on its own. It has a subject and a verb, but it is “dependent” on something else to complete the thought.

When we entered the room, three large men holding three large knives attacked us.

With the addition of a secondary (independent) clause, this sentence now expresses a complete thought.

Dependent clause + independent clause = sentence of perfection

Dependent clauses are easy to identify because they do not express a complete thought. In addition, dependent clauses are usually introduced by certain key words. These words have technical names (subordinating conjunctions, relatives, etc.) based on the type of dependent clause they are introducing. For now, however, simply knowing that they exist is enough. The following table contains several of the most commonly used words:

After
Although
As
As if
As long as
As much as
Because
Before
If
In order that
Since
So that
Though
Unless
Until
Whatever
When
Whenever
Where
Wherever
Whether
Which
While
Whomever
Whose

We could go into much greater detail regarding independent versus dependent clauses, but for our purposes, we simply need to be able to identify the two.

After all of this, what do independent and dependent clauses have to do with semicolons?

Return for part three to find out!

I know. I’m mean.

*snicker*

I hope to see you tomorrow!

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day Two: What’s in a Clause? Independent Versus Dependent <you are here>

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grammatically Yours - Introduction to Semicolons (1/5)

I have heard a lot of writers express frustration as to the purpose of the semicolon. In many ways, this tiny little piece of punctuation causes more pain than bliss. Because of the confusion it causes, semicolons are often avoided with a vengeance – relegated to the trash heap of scary grammar.

But semicolons have a definite place in writing, and they can be very helpful if not misused (or overused).

So what’s up with the semicolon? What does it do, and why on earth do we need it?

Personally, I look at the semicolon as an organizational tool for sentences. It is perfect for grouping ideas – whether long or short – into a sentence that is easy to understand.

So, let’s take this in bite-sized chunks. Every day this week, I will upload a short (sort of) blog post containing one new piece of semicolon-relevant information. Deal?

Deal.

Let’s start with the easiest use of the semicolon:

The semicolon is perfect for organizing lists of items that already contain commas.

Take the following example:

Without the semicolon –

During our trip, Joe and I drove to San Diego, California, Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, Little Rock, Arkansas, Cincinnati, Ohio, and New York City, New York.

Okay, first of all, this sentence has a ton of commas. Second of all, this sentence has a ton of commas. Third of all, those people spent who knows how much money on gasoline for that trip. No thanks.

Now compare the original sentence with this one:

With the semicolon –

During our trip, Joe and I drove to San Diego, California; Austin, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Little Rock, Arkansas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and New York City, New York.

Don’t you think that’s a little cleaner and more organized? It's definitely easier to understand.

Here’s one more example just for fun:

Without the semicolon –

The following professors were at the meeting: Andrew Root, Professor of Botany, Andrea McDonald, Professor of Animal Sciences, Andre Genome, Professor of Genetics, and Andy Star, Professor of Astronomy.

With the semicolon –

The following professors were at the meeting: Andrew Root, Professor of Botany; Andrea McDonald, Professor of Animal Sciences; Andre Genome, Professor of Genetics; and Andy Star, Professor of Astronomy.

See how helpful the semicolon is already? *smile*

Well, that’s it for part one. Check back tomorrow for part two!

~~~~~

Schedule:

Day One: Introduction to Semicolons <you are here>

Friday, December 2, 2011

Grammatically Yours: Semicolon Series

Hello, my friends!

This is just a quick post to let you know that the week-long semicolon series will be live starting on Monday. I hope to see you then.

Sorry for the delay!