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Bucket

Semicolon

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We all know how a semicolon is primarily used; that much should be obvious. But I've also heard that a semicolon should be used to separate a series of phrases already separated by commas. Let's say you had a collection of weapons: a knife, pistol and club in the nightstand; a rifle, shotgun and machete in the closet and another pistol downstairs in the kitchen. Has anyone heard of that rule?

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If you think of it as something between a colon and a comma in use, such a use becomes natural, and not really too different from the first usage you made.

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A semicolon is what you have left when you lose part of your colon. The moral of the story is suction and butts should never mix, but apparently that doesn't stop people from sucking ass.

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Why would you have so many weapons in the nightstand in the first place?

And then a shotgun, a machete and a pistol?

Dude... you are paranoid.

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When in doubt, just remember the old limerick.

CAPS LOCK IS CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL.

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Use a semicolon instead of a period when the two sentences are highly related, and adjust capitalization accordingly.

Never use a semicolon in place of a comma.

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I know the rule as well (a bunch of clauses in my fraternity's Constitution utilize it; who says you don't learn anything from a frat?). Now I always wondered, what if it's only one phrase with a few different words and a bunch of single words? Does the rule take precedence? For example, say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer; a printer; and a set of speakers. Did I punctuate that correctly? Or would I say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers?

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alexz721 said:

I know the rule as well (a bunch of clauses in my fraternity's Constitution utilize it; who says you don't learn anything from a frat?). Now I always wondered, what if it's only one phrase with a few different words and a bunch of single words? Does the rule take precedence? For example, say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer; a printer; and a set of speakers. Did I punctuate that correctly? Or would I say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers?

Following a comma with the word 'and' is never acceptable. They're mostly interchangeable anyway. But no-- as far as I know the semicolon is used for separating groups, not single items.

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Jonathan said:

"It is nearly standard use in American English"

The Hell? I never heard of a serial comma until I took English 101. Then the professor told me that it was something people were "starting to use". I was like o_O

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That's always been about the most annoying English ambiguity for me right there. I just alternate now since both seem to be acceptable.

But no one answered my original question.

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alexz721 said:

I know the rule as well (a bunch of clauses in my fraternity's Constitution utilize it; who says you don't learn anything from a frat?). Now I always wondered, what if it's only one phrase with a few different words and a bunch of single words? Does the rule take precedence? For example, say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer; a printer; and a set of speakers. Did I punctuate that correctly? Or would I say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers?

Neither is proper. In both cases, you're creating sentence fragments after the semicolon.

"I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk. I have a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers."

Or

"I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; I have a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers."

In these cases, you aren't breaking any grammar, but it's still confusing and should probably be reworded.

Bucket said:

Following a comma with the word 'and' is never acceptable.

Bullcrap. That's an outdated, dying rule.

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AndrewB said:
In both cases, you're creating sentence fragments after the semicolon.

I wouldn't bother with that unless I were teaching elementary school kids to form a gramatically full sentence or something like that, as paragraphs are full of so called "sentence fragments" because word or structure elisions are only natural where repetitions would be redundant, and repeating "I have" is not really necessary in the example.

alexz721 said:
For example, say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer; a printer; and a set of speakers. Did I punctuate that correctly? Or would I say I have a keyboard, monitor, and a mouse on my desk; a subwoofer, a printer, and a set of speakers?

I wouldn't use the former, in any case, but why would you need a semicolon here? Unless that's a transcription of spoken language where you inserted the latter items after practically closing the statement (that's what it looks like), you'd probably add something like "as well as" or "and also" after "desk".

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myk said:

I wouldn't bother with that unless I were teaching elementary school kids to form a gramatically full sentence or something like that, as paragraphs are full of so called "sentence fragments" because word or structure elisions are only natural where repetitions would be redundant, and repeating "I have" is not really necessary in the example.

Disagreed. Read any news article from a reputable paper, or any research paper, or any government letter, and you'll never see that kind of attitude employed. In fact, if you read any news articles that quote a person speaking in sentence fragments, you'll often see the errors corrected with the implied words added in square brackets.

Sentence fragmentation is one of the most disruptive errors for readability, and it has no place outside of the most private, casual conversation. It is sloppiness on the same level as "u" and "ur."

I wouldn't use the former, in any case, but why would you need a semicolon here? Unless that's a transcription of spoken language where you inserted the latter items after practically closing the statement (that's what it looks like), you'd probably add something like "as well as" or "and also" after "desk".

That's basically what I said. The examples were corrected for errors, but not corrected for common sense, which is what you just did.

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AndrewB said:
Read any news article from a reputable paper, or any research paper, or any government letter, and you'll never see that kind of attitude employed.

Those publications stick to highly normative language, and don't deal with its whole potential and effective use, hardly using complex language in the process. Literature, oratory, and advertisement are three fields that are defenitely not privately and certainly don't stick to mere normative language.

Sentence fragmentation is one of the most disruptive errors for readability,

That's one arbitrary and impractical statement. The likeliness that an elision will be useful and not confusing depends how related the "fragmented" part is to the other, and how close (how easy it is to associate them). Thus, interrelated clauses more easily take elisions without ambiguity (where an ambiguous relation isn't sought).

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myk said:

That's one arbitrary and impractical statement. The likeliness that an elision will be useful and not confusing depends how related the "fragmented" part is to the other, and how close (how easy it is to associate them). Thus, interrelated clauses more easily take elisions without ambiguity (where an ambiguous relation isn't sought).

I would appreciate an example or two of how this is the case.

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AndrewB said:
I would appreciate an example or two of how this is the case.

AndrewB posted five times; myk, but four.

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myk said:

AndrewB posted five times; myk, but four.

It's a groundout 6-3 to end the inning, but a solo home run in the bottom of the 8th puts AndrewB up 6 to 4. He'll try to put Myk away and pick up the save, right after this.

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I think that's more creative license. I wouldn't be able to find an English major who considers that grammatically sound. On a side note, it seems odd how people will accept some quirks and adapted vernacular of the language but not others. (The rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, for one, is more lax than it used to be.)

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Bucket said:
I think that's more creative license.

The proper name for it is "ellipsis". Naturally it's used more often in, and more applicable to, literature, oral language, advertising, and such, rather than in a text book, news paper, or manual. Although it might work in a more limited way in the latter mediums, as well.

I wouldn't be able to find an English major who considers that grammatically sound.

Since what is missing is quite easily implied, there is no real grammatical problem.

Let's not confuse what's acceptable or appropriate (normative grammar), which depends on the medium, with what's grammatically functional (grammar proper), which is affected by the context.

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myk said:

Since what is missing is quite easily implied, there is no real grammatical problem.

The first half of your sentence doesn't support the conclusion in the second half. If you could defend any English by saying "it's obvious what isn't there" then leet speak would be acceptable.

There might not be a communicational problem, but there is definitely a grammatical problem.

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AndrewB said:
then leet speak would be acceptable.

Acceptable by whom, and how? You still don't see the difference between normative grammar and language grammar?

Normative grammar prescribes certain standards for certain mediums or occasions, while actual grammar is the understanding of language in use.

An ellipsus like the one posted above isn't really different from what we do when we answer a question, for example, leaving out what would otherwise make a full fledged sentence, for the same reason; that information is already on the previous related sentence or clause.

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If the "information" omitted is in a previous sentence, it CAN be grammatically correct. It can also be incorrect. (This paragraph was a sly example of the correct kind.)

1: Grammatically OK example: "I have gut rot. Gut rot sucks."

2: Also OK: "I have gut rot. It sucks."

3: NOT OK: "I have gut rot. Sucks."


I'm saying that 1 and 2 are OK, and not 3. You seem to be saying that all three are grammatically correct. But it doesn't work that way.

It's grammatically fine to replace the structural noun (such as "gut rot") with a vague, generic word (such as "it"). Grammar doesn't care how vague or secretive you are with your language. Even this is fine: "I have it. It sucks." Even though the nature of "it" is a complete mystery, it doesn't matter. There are no rules against mysterious nouns. There might be guidelines against it, but then there's also creative license.

You can always replace a specific noun with a more abstract noun, and you will never break any rules. However, you cannot remove the required ingredients of a complete sentence (such as the "it" from "it sucks") with the justification of ("well, it was obvious I was going to say 'it' anyway.") As soon as you do this, you have discarded the rules of grammar.

I hope that clears some things up.

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Everything makes sense now, everything but the fixation of Bucket with having a shitload of weapons scattered around the house.

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