Iron Pen - Battle: Comma versus Semicolon  

Friday, November 28, 2008

I am by no means a grammatical expert and believe me there is no chance that I could ever pass for one, but as of late I have become fascinated with learning all of the shamefully wicked rules that the grammar snobs like to throw in your face. My first college English professor had the greatest jokes about said grammar hounds. Sadly I cannot recall one of his best ones but believe me it was hilarious. He was a riot that one.

Now the basic rules for comma and semicolon (and other common grammar) usage have been around for ages, but those grammar snobs above are the ones who reprimand the masses for every inadvertent misuse with a howling, "Use it right or DIE!!"

Needless to say, I keep several grammar handbooks an arms length away from me at all times to combat said remarks.

Now for this battle, which happens to be my absolute favorite, the question asked is, "Should I use a comma here, or a semicolon?

In my experience, if you have to ask, then you were probably meant to use a semicolon. After all, it is the comma that is widely overused and not the innocent, defenseless semicolon. For arguments sake, though, there are some people who like to toss a semicolon in at every chance they get to look smart --they don't. I love the semicolon and I've even found that I use it right about 90% of the time (hey, I have my days). I especially loved wowing my English professor(s) with the correct use of them in my essays.

In the misuser's defense, I don't EVER remember being actually taught the proper use of a semicolon by a real live teacher. It's just something I picked up along the way. So, maybe that is the case for them, as well. I know for a fact that my professor doesn't care if you use commas in place of a semicolon, but if you do use one you better use it right. I recall on one of my recent essay drafts being caught using a semicolon between a dependent and an independent clause (my excuse for this was that I changed my sentence at the last minute...yeah right).

I do believe that said grammar snobs are debating demoting the semicolon because he's (she's?) so misunderstood. Hopefully the more polite and sympathetic grammar fairies will save him.

The Comma:

  • In a compound sentence (the easiest and most common use) - Sarah and I are best friends, but we rarely get to see each other.
  • Between items in a series - Sarah spends a great deal of time reading, playing sports, and killing puppies.
  • After introductory clauses and phrases - Being a narcissist, Sarah often stares at herself in the mirror for hours.

There are other comma rules, but these uses are the ones closely related to the semicolon uses.

The Semicolon:

  • Separating Independent clauses (oh, stop your snickering) - I loved Sarah to death; she will be greatly missed.
  • Separating items in a series - Sarah was banned from Las Vegas, Nevada; Los Angeles, California; and Miami, Florida.

Now, if you'd like to have a laugh at the poor semicolon's expense, read this article:

I should inform you that I like to get my grammar on as often as possible. When the grammar fairies visit me and give me inspiration they demand immediate action. So, this will not be the last Iron Pen post.

Thank you my friends, and enjoy your day (or what's left of the night)!

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Of Prologues and Prefaces  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I have recently noticed that I always start my writing with a prologue. I think I've not done it only once since I started this whole 'writing to be published' endeavor. Anyway, I was thinking to myself why I always start this way, and I think I may have the answer.

I start writing with very vague details about the main character. From those details I construct a prologue to cement the main conflict in my mind. You see, I don't do it for the reader I do it so that as I'm writing I can go back and read the prologue to make sure I'm on the right track of where the story is supposed to be headed.

Another reason, I thought of, that could be why I start with a prologue is just to have a starting point. Did that make an sense? Let me explain. Instead of writing words that come into my head I write scenes and dialogue as I see and hear them, played out like a movie, in my mind. So that prologue would sort of be the voice over during the opening credits. It just seems very off to me to start with dialogue.

Now that I've got it figured out I ask myself, since I don't do it for the reader, in the final copy, do I leave the prologue out or do I let it stay?

I just thought for fun's sake I'll post the prologue to the still untitled short story that I've been talking about forever. Here goes.

Alexandera could feel them touching her. Like spider webs across the skin. Light and eerie. There have been so many coming through Demon souls. So far, they didn’t know she could see them, feel them. She wondered if it was just her or if the mortal skin around her could feel, too. If those same mortal eyes can see them, beautiful and devastating.
Someone- something- left the gates unguarded.

Alexandera shouldn’t know these things, but her father made sure she knew what she was before he left. Half-demon, half-human. Hell on Earth. Most half-breeds don’t survive, but Alexandera’s father kept her safe. It was her father, Vigilo’s job to keep the souls in their realm, the fifth of the seven hidden worlds. Why they were out now could only mean that he was in trouble; something was letting them out. There were only two beings who knew how to take them back into the hidden worlds. Vigilo and Alexandera. She would have to find him or risk her life and the life of her mother to save Earth, the Fourth World, Realm of the Mortals.

Enjoy my friends, and have a great day!

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Word o' the Week Wednesday!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Welcome friends to the first installment of Word o' the Week Wednesday!

My word for this week is:
obfuscate - v. to obscure; confuse

It took him a great deal of work to obfuscate the truth from her.'s word of the day is:
emollient - adj. softening or soothing
n. something that softens or soothes

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Yay! for renovations  

I have been updating my blog design. I like it much better now it's much cheerier than before. There will be a slew of new things showing up in the next coming weeks.

On a different note, I had a very strange encounter recently, and it went a little something like this:

guy: Hey, don't you go to TCC.

me: Yeah, I go to TCC.

guy: What's your major?

me: Architecture.

guy: Architecture? I thought you were a writer. Aren't you like a journalist or something?

me: I was in high school. Either way, I could do both. It's called multitasking.

guy: I know you from high school?

me: I don't know, do you?

guy: ...

me: Anyway, can I order now.

guy: Oh, yeah.

me: Can I get a spicy chicken sandwich and some tacos.

guy: Some tacos?

me: Yes, tacos.

guy: This is Wendy's, we don't have tacos.

me: You don't have tacos?

guy: ...

me: ...

He stood there staring at me for like five minutes. It was very very creepy. I guess he didn't like my taco joke. I'm not even quite sure where it came from, but the look on his face was priceless when I said it. Well, I guess you sort of had to be there.

p.s. Of course, I know Wendy's doesn't sell tacos.

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Where have all my ideas gone?  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Well, it has been awhile since my last update. I'll start by saying that I have finished my short story, but it's still untitled. I'm editing it right now for publication in my college's literary magazine along with a literary essay and a few poems.

Also, I have decided on what idea I'm going to work with for "the novel." I'm letting all the other ideas fall for right now. I'm actually focused.

By the way, I just read a really good book called Tethered: A Novel by Amy Mackinnon. It was rather good; one of the best I've read in quite awhile.

Expect more frequent posts from now on.

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