babarnett: (yoda)
I have a huge amount of appreciation for my local fire department, and not just because I come from a family full of volunteer firemen. People dedicated to keeping your home from burning to the ground are a Very Good Thing in my book. However, the semicolon abuse (among other things) they recently delivered to my door hurt my brain.  Names have been changed and/or removed to protect the innocent.

"As the Firefighters & EMTs who respond to emergencies in your neighborhood; we wanted to share some important information with you."

"The Board of Fire Commissioners has implemented a long term budget/financial plan with the assistance of Insert Firm Name Here; a renowned national firm that assists government agencies in sound budget planning."

As a general rule, I would like to offer the following: If you're tempted to use a semicolon but cannot cite a good reason* for doing so, take your hands off the keyboard and step away slowly. Take a deep breath. Return to the keyboard, but whatever you do, do not hit that semicolon key until you've learned how to use one properly.  If you look up the rules and don't understand them, then just don't use a semicolon. Ever.

* "Because I saw someone else use it like that" is not a good reason. Chances are, that person used it incorrectly too.
babarnett: (yoda)
I can't decide which of the following is worse: supposed writers who complain about "grammer nazi's" picking their work apart instead of recognizing their obvious brilliance, or people who, when complaining about the aforementioned supposed writers, proudly declare, "I'm a spelling and grammer Nazi."
babarnett: (yoda)
"Ugh, don't use a semicolon.  I hate semicolons."

"You used a couple dashes in this.  I hate dashes.  I never use them in my own writing.  I don't like the way they look."

I've now seen variations on the above enough to be perplexed.  I understand that people are going to have stylistic preferences and leanings for their own work, but lavishing hate on a properly used form of punctuation in someone else's writing just seems silly.  Hating incorrectly used punctuation makes sense, as does hating it when people overuse a form of punctuation.  (An em-dash or semicolon in every other sentence would get old fast.  And don't get me started on people who end! everything! with! exclamation! points!)  But I'm having a hard time understanding what could be so hate-inducing about a well-placed em-dash or semicolon.  Have semicolons been known to insult people's mothers?  Do marauding bands of em-dashes go around robbing old ladies?

Maybe I'm biased by my grammar nerdom, but as a writer, I love having all these different tools at my disposal to get something across in just the right way.  Don't like dashes or semicolons?  Fine.  Don't use them.  But as long as another writer is using them properly and judiciously--and as long as you're not that writer's editor--leave them alone, dang it.

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babarnett

December 2013

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