Many people are confused by semicolons; some people just hate them.
Kurt Vonnegut hated them. Even Malcom Gladwell seems adverse to them. He said, he doesn’t see their point. So, Mr. Gladwell, this blog is dedicated to you.
I, personally, LOVE semicolons; it’s like I don’t have to stop my thought! However, some of my editors have asked me to cut them down. One editor-friend said, “they do not appear in popular fiction.”
BUT THEY SHOULD!
Whether you like, hate, are confused, or don’t give a damn about them, every writer should know how to use them correctly.
The secret to the semicolon is simple. Two complete sentences which are closely related in thought or idea. Other writers believe a comma and conjunction (fanboys) or a period is just as good, but I think of it this way:
Did this help anyone?
Do you go into a coma when someone starts talking about commas?
Don’t get bit by the deadly comma coma bug! Figure out how to make the comma work for you, not against you!
The purpose of all punctuation is to clarify your thoughts and ideas so readers can enjoy and understand the book!
Did you have a teacher that told you, “whenever you feel the need to pause, insert a comma”?
WORST ADVICE EVER!
When we are writing, we naturally pause to think. That is not necessarily where a comma needs to be.
Commas have a number of rules. My favorite site to use – and to introduce to my students – is the Owl at Purdue. Their comma usage explanations are clear and detailed.
One of my editor-friends believes the comma used for introductory words, phrases, and clauses is “going the way of the dinosaur.” While I agree that some people and publications seem to think so, I think it’s still a valid and needed use. [I’ve used introductory commas in this blog – one was in the previous sentence, “While I agree…]
The Fanboys rules is the easiest to remember; however, because of the number of teachers giving the pause advice, I get sentences that look like this:
The Rams won but, not everyone was happy.
We sometimes punctuate our speech this way for emphasis, but you can’t hear tone in these words, and it’s just wrong. < this sentence contains correct use of the fanboys rule.
My students often ask me to explain the whole “Oxford Comma” disagreement. Well, it goes like this: There are people who use the oxford comma and then there are monsters!
Commas are confusing, but they’re not impossible to learn. Any editor is going to appreciate the correct use of commas regardless of how much they appreciate or introductory comma. 🙂
66 days –
That is what a new study says it takes to form new habits. The study participants reported a range from 2 to 254, with 66 being an average.
It depends on the person. With me, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for me to stick to my commitment. And every year my teaching schedule changes, so there’s two to three months a year for me to recommit.
The holidays, however, throws many people off.
However, once the commitment is made and the habit is in place, it’s much easier to get back into the mind space. The secret is to jump right back into the habit after a holiday or change.
Also, I think you have to make an effort to guard that commitment. Don’t be tempted to make lunch plans on a writing hour, make it for later or for a different day.
Life too easily distracts us and, without habits firmly in place, we are easily swayed.
Some people do not understand the basic rules of professionalism. Speaking to, writing, or responding to an editor or publisher should be undertaken with care. These people are our colleagues in the best sense of the word.
I’ve worked with a few literary journals and have talked to editors at others. The things authors say and do completely surprised me.
I’ve only had a single editor be so completely unprofessional I became embarrassed for her (and forwarded her email to her boss). On the other hand, I’ve dealt with a number of writers who have taken pride in their unprofessional behaviors.
One writer posted a snarky response (he supposedly emailed) to an editor. Whether he actually wrote that to an editor is one thing, it’s quite another message to post it on social media for all to see. He may have felt he had won the battle, so to speak, but what he actually did was show how unprofessional he behaved with a colleague, and what a risk other editors or publishers might find him to work with.
We can disagree with editors, publishers, other writers, but there’s no reason to verbally attack or otherwise be rude to anyone in the industry. Taking your private issues with public companies to social media is a mistake on any number of levels. Just like employers look at social media sites, so do publishers.
I had one publisher ask me for all my social media links. While some writers told me not to hand it over, I felt it was part of my job to have these available to people in the industry. I maintain social media sites for this reason. Publishers don’t want to just know if writers have a following, but how they’re interacting with readers, writers, and others on those social media sites.
Being rude in an email, speaking arrogantly on a call, and posting disagreements publicly will not further a career.
I do understand it’s quite popular in our society of late to act like an arse and expect to be treated like a king/queen; however, it gives a poor impression and people will not want to work with a person who acts like a spoiled child.
If an author agrees to do an interview, the professional thing is to follow through.
However, life gets busy.
If for some reason you’ve changed your mind or can not follow through, you should notify the person:
I’ve had a number of authors agree to interviews, then not follow through. While life does get busy, if you are presenting yourself as a professional writer and want to be promoted as such, then keep your interviewer updated.
Creating a poor impression does not work in any author’s favor. If the interviewer hears of any other opportunities and the author did not follow through in one way or another, the interviewer has no reason to push the author’s name forward to the next level, interview, or event coordinator.
I’ve given a number of interviews, answered questions, sent the suggested pictures, bio. links, and information, only to never hear from the once-interested-party again and to never see the interview in print.
It takes a lot of time to answer all these questions and collect the information/links requested, only to see nothing come from the work.
Some authors keep a digital file of pre-written answers to popular questions; however, my feelings and ideas change and I don’t want any two interviews to sound the same. I want my readers to look forward to a new interview, wondering what crazy thing I might say next.
There’s not much a writer can do about the never-appearing interview. We can’t ask for the person to guarantee us a spot on their blog, magazine, or other. The only thing we might do is ask more questions up front, while being polite as possible:
Although those answers, as someone who has played interviewer, are hard to pin down.
Interviews do take time, and having your hard work unused is disappointing, but not participating is risking a chance for promotion. And promotion is a writer’s best friend.
In some writers’ groups, when I’ve mentioned that I’d been contacted by an editor who requested changes, there came about a rise of instantaneous resistance.
So far, whenever an editor has contacted me about changes, the changes were minor: a comma here, a synonym there, once a nick-name which they ended up leaving in.
One of the these editors worked for The Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal ($1.00 Stories). I believe him to be more experienced and credentialed in the requirements of publishable writing.
I willingly listened.
So before your writer hackles rise – listen, consider, then decide. Be polite and professional.
Don’t focus on the time, the weeks, or the future. Focus on the now.
Meaning: Don’t focus on the end of your story or the concerns about editing, about rewriting, publishing, stay with the here and now. Work on your story one page at a time, one day at a time, and go at your own pace.
One of my favorite quotes:
Because, sometimes, it feels like that!
What’s your favorite quote?