Semicolons, dashes, ellipses (Oh, My!)

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 28th Sep 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/raesc1js/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Languages

In continuing with the punctuation and grammar guides line of articles, here's a brief word about three more types of punctuation.

Semicolon (;)

The primary use of semicolons is to connect two sentences with very similar ideas.

  • The weather was nice today; yesterday it was raining.
  • I promised that I would go with her; for that reason, I can't go with you.
  • The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog; the dog retaliated by snapping at the fox's tail.

When connecting two sentences with a semicolon, the first letter of the first word is not capitalized (unless it is I or a proper noun).

Dashes ( -- )

Dashes allow the user to insert information into the middle of or next to a separate thought.

I like to watch late night television – did you watch the new talk show?
I promised – sorry I didn't tell you earlier – that I would go with her.
I didn't know – did you tell me? – you were there yesterday.

In the latter two examples, using parentheses in place of the dashes would have been acceptable punctuation as well.

There are two different types of dashes, en and em. More about the different uses of dashes can be found in this article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash . However, it is possible to use the two types of dash interchangeably, so long as in an article or paper one is consistent.

According to articles at Ask.com and the NY Times, em-dashes can be used in place of parentheses.


Poet Emily Dickinson loved to use dashes in her writing, partly because the punctuation was frowned upon by male critics. She isn't my favorite poet, but I like her eagerness to stick it to her critics. Read more about Ms. Dickinson and her dashes:
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dickinson/dash.htm
http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/common.html
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/mad-dash/?_r=0

Ellipses

Ellipses allow you to gloss over information that isn't important . They can be especially useful when a writer wants to quote several parts of a long quote, but the entire quote is too long to be included. Ellipses can also be useful when the writer is reminding the reader of specific parts of a well-known text.

"Oh beautiful / for … amber waves of grain."

More on acceptable ellipses variations can be found here.

More Grammar Information

If you are interested in more articles on grammar, check out the following links:
I wrote these:
Punctuation Day
Why Does that Letter Make Sound?
Better Spelling
Open Letter

Other Wikinuts wrote these:
Write It Right
Slang
English Punctuation
Dialogue Writing Tips

Better yet -- write your own!! Follow this link: WRITE NOW!!

Tags

Break, Dash Ellipsis, Ellipses, Emily Dickinson, Punctuation, Semicolon

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know

Comments

author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Sep 2013 (#)

When using dashes in sentences always use the n-dash. Use the n-dash in the place of brackets or commas, always surrounded by spaces. This link may be used to link concepts and numbers, this time with no spaces. Also it can be used between names of people who have worked together on a project this is so there is no ambiguity when using hyphenated names of a single person.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Use an ellipsis to indicate missing text and do not surround it with spaces when using an ellipsis. Only use a space to indicate a pause for a dramatic effect, in this instance it stands in place of a comma, or trailing off in thought or speech.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Mariah
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Again this can be used at the discretion of the writer, depending on the style and text of the wording involved.
The use of an ellipsis is therefore flexible in being appropriately applied by writers within individual pieces.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Sep 2013 (#)

I agree because of the pressure of intense scrutiny on every tiny little thing the latitude given to the written word has to justified, if it is not justified then it is rubbished.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
29th Sep 2013 (#)

I keep learning all the time. Thank you Phyl for taking us to a higher level - siva

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Thanks, Siva.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Terry and Mariah -- it is a bit subjective, don't you think? I find that the semicolon has more set rules, as many who misuse it use it in place of a comma. However, the rules for ellipses and dashes are much more flexible and open to subjective interpretation. This is especially true for en and em dashes, as is clearly reflected in the article. Thanks for weighing in.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Sep 2013 (#)

No thanks needed I enjoyed the different takes on the correct use of grammar. But the thing that worries me is the highlighting of mistakes across the site. Surely a private message would be kinder, if any message was needed at all. We need to think about how others feel and the perception of being humiliated in the face of our peers can be daunting to some writers. If I make a mistake and post it I usually realize that there is a mistake and try not to make it again. If a post was really badly done then it would not get moderated, we have moderators to point us in the right direction.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Phyl, great job explaining the punctuation and using examples to illustrate your point. Please keep going with your series. It's helpful to all of us. So I applaud you and encourage you. On a different subject, have you thought about doing an article on Jazzercize? I've never tried it, and maybe I should. Just a suggestion for you. I get a lot of hits on exercise articles so it might be a good topic for you.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Terry Trainor
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Hi Connie you say it's helpful to all of us, how do you know that?

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Terry, I'm approving your most recent comment, but I'm sure Connie was just trying to be nice. There are people who would like to read the grammar stuff, even if others don't need it. "All" is an exaggeration, but I know she didn't mean to insult anyone.
And nor did I with my article. I have not used anyone else's articles to point out grammar mistakes --tempting though it may have been sometimes. I am trying to use things I have taught it the past that my adult ESL students have found troublesome or my FB friends have asked me to explain since they know my background. If any Wikinut feels attacked, I have to return the onus to them, as I have not given cause.
But that said, I do appreciate all the nutpoints from comments, as well as opportunities to discuss picky points of punctuation pestering people with persnickety pedantry. :)

Reply to this comment

author avatar Terry Trainor
30th Sep 2013 (#)

On one of my posts ‘Leaves burning on Bonfires ‘I miss spelt Bonfire and you left this message. Reminds me of what I was doing this summer. Not as poetic as you've made it, but then...
(Wondered if you wanted to add an "n" to your title, though.) So, from a personal view your remark, ‘I have not used anyone else’s articles to point out grammar mistakes,’ is not true. You then go on to say, ‘Tempting though it may have been sometimes.’ I find that sweeping remark patronizing to say the least. As for the other remark, remark, ‘It's helpful to all of us.’ My personal mail messages do not seem to agree with that statement.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Sep 2013 (#)

Connie: I have 3 Jazzercise articles in draft form that I haven't finished. Your exercise articles have been so good and I fear mine just keep falling flat. But eventually I will finish and post them. Thanks for the push!

Reply to this comment

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
29th Sep 2013 (#)

i think this is most helpful although I will probably still do it my way...thank you Phyl...

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
29th Sep 2013 (#)

I wouldn't expect anything less, Carolina, especially with poetry and poets that makes their own rules like Dickinson did!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
30th Sep 2013 (#)

Terry-- clearly I meant that these grammar articles did not call attention to articles, which is to what I thought you would be referring. And if you want to get an emotional reaction from a comment I give you, which I attempted to tactfully ask in the form of a question, then perhaps you should stop following me and I will do the same. Funny I thought we were writers here to learn from each other. I know I have had to learn better the hard way, even leaving errors in my own work so others will feel better for having left mistakes (see my subtitles in "Aging Grayfully", for example). But since I have no hope of pleasing everyone, I will write to please myself, and you are welcome to go or stay or read or not as best suits you. And I wish you much success, whatever you decide.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Delicia Powers
30th Sep 2013 (#)

thanks Phyl...I am a great fan of Emily Dickinson .and bending but not breaking rules...LOL...:0)

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
30th Sep 2013 (#)

Wonderful use of ellipses, Delicia! Proof that there are those who can read my articles without taking them personally! Gee whiz!

Reply to this comment

author avatar Ptrikha
18th Oct 2013 (#)

I was not aware of the usage of dash, and have very rarely used them.

Reply to this comment

author avatar Phyl Campbell
19th Oct 2013 (#)

Some people like them; others almost never use them. Both ways are OK. Thanks for your comment.

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Username
Can't login?
Password