Help me with my grammar

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  • #1
Mk
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Several months earlier, American businessman and retired US Naval 
Intelligence officer Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow on charges of
espionage; he had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed 
torpedo.
Is my use of the semicolon good? Everything look right?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
DaveC426913
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Yup. phrases on both sides are legit sentences. Semi-colon good.
 
  • #3
BobG
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Nope. Edward Pope should be enclosed in commas. Replace your semi-colon with either a period or the word "because".

In general, avoid the semi-colon like the plague. It usually makes your position look weaker. It's almost as bad as using words like however and therefore, which should also be avoided like the plague.

Words in the "however" category tend to dilute the forcefulness of your paper. You're basically saying "I'm right and this is why I'm right, but maybe I could be wrong."

It takes some skill to pull off the use of semi-colons and words such as "however" without weakening your paper. They work best when you have to introduce a point that should weaken your position and is too obvious to ignore. You can use them to weaken the impact of a point that contradicts the point you're trying to make; however, it's kind of an obvious trick that won't bowl over a sophisticated reader.

Of course, the impressions created by grammar and selection of words can vary with the audience. Most businesses and the military like very straight-forward, strong language. Other audiences (college professors reading a doctoral thesis, for example) may get an entirely different impression.
 
  • #4
Chi Meson
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I disagree with BobG. I am a fan of the semi-colon; however, it is often incorrectly used.

I agree with DaveC; the semi-colon attaches two independant sentences and can imply that the second sentence is a clarification of the first.

The commas around "Edmond Pope" would be incorrect in this instance because "Edmond Pope" is the subject of the sentence. IF the phrase started with "An American businessman and retired US Naval
Intelligence officer..." then that phrase would be the subject and "Edmond Pope" would be a modifier placed within commas. As it is, no comma is required.
 
  • #5
BobG
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Chi Meson said:
I disagree with BobG. I am a fan of the semi-colon; however, it is often incorrectly used.
You even concede that it's a bad idea for most people to use the semi-colon. You obstinately persist in using it for no rational or defensible reason; it's just a pursuit of that 'air of intellectual elitism' that Bushies despise so much.

The semi-colon's not such a bad tool, after all. Thanks to the semi-colon, only half of my sentence is unsupported hot air instead of the entire sentence. :rofl:
 
  • #6
BobG
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Personally, I prefer the semi-latus rectum to the semi-colon; however, that's probably because I feel more comfortable computing satellite orbits than using grammar.
 
  • #7
DaveC426913
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Chi Meson said:
I disagree with BobG. I am a fan of the semi-colon; however, it is often incorrectly used.
I've always had difficulty with 'howevers'. I at first thought the above was wrong. I'm still not convinced it looks right.
 
  • #8
brewnog
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I disagree that Edward Pope should be enclosed by commas. This is a matter of personal preference. I'm a big fan of semicolons, but only when used correctly.
 
  • #9
BobG
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brewnog said:
I disagree that Edward Pope should be enclosed by commas. This is a matter of personal preference. I'm a big fan of semicolons, but only when used correctly.
That sounds so much stronger. How could anyone argue against using semi-colons correctly?
 
  • #10
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Enclosing the name in parentheses would, in fact, be grammatically incorrect.

Replace the semicolon with a period. Strong ideas are best presented alone. (Hell, when in doubt, use a period. If you know how to use a semicolon, great. You'll find it works only rarely. When you see the guy laying them down after every other sentence, you'll know who didn't quite learn how to write. Keep it simple.)
 
  • #11
Chi Meson
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Well; I for one don't appreciate the bad; rap. That semi-colons are getting; Why are you guys so dead set against; Them?

I;disagree that they weaken a sentence; they only; negative consequence; of; using semicolons is; indeed when they? are,,over;used. They tend to call!!!attention/to:themselves!!?/!

Back to the OP. It is a justifiable, and correct used of the semi-colon. As we all agree, the semi-colon is not to be overused. Sometimes it can be quite elegant and nothing else will do.
DaveC426913 said:
I've always had difficulty with 'howevers'. I at first thought the above was wrong. I'm still not convinced it looks right.
And using the semi-colon to precede a "however" or "therefore" clause is also a valid use. The "it doesn't look right" feel is winning in the linguistic realm. Even if something is correct, the "hypercorrection" effect will often kill the proper use. We have learned that the semi-colon often produces ugly sentences. We then hypercorrect every use of the semicolon as a mistake.
 
Last edited:
  • #12
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Use of the semi-colon or not is a matter of style, not grammar (at least with regards to the OP); however, it is true that sentences separated with semi-colons are usually more forceful as two separate sentences.
 
  • #13
Chi Meson
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daveb said:
Use of the semi-colon or not is a matter of style, not grammar (at least with regards to the OP); however, it is true that sentences separated with semi-colons are usually more forceful as two separate sentences.
Well said!
 
  • #14
BobG
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Sorry, Meson, that wasn't directed at you. I was talking about the pseudo-intellects--I'm sure we've all been through that.
 
  • #16
JasonRox
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Chi Meson said:
I disagree with BobG. I am a fan of the semi-colon; however, it is often incorrectly used.

I agree with DaveC; the semi-colon attaches two independant sentences and can imply that the second sentence is a clarification of the first.

The commas around "Edmond Pope" would be incorrect in this instance because "Edmond Pope" is the subject of the sentence. IF the phrase started with "An American businessman and retired US Naval
Intelligence officer..." then that phrase would be the subject and "Edmond Pope" would be a modifier placed within commas. As it is, no comma is required.

I'm with you on this one.

The semi-colon separates two independant clauses, which is its purpose.

Second, "Edmond Pope" is essential information. Only use commas when it is not essential.

For example:

Assume you know Billy.

"Tell Billy we have class today."

Assume you don't know Billy.

"Tell Billy, the tall guy with the blue shirt, we have class today."
 
  • #18
Mk
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Well, I didn't put a period there because the two sentences I wanted to be conjuncted, I couldn't find a word to stick in there, so I put a semicolon. Maybe the keyboard should be changed around. I left pinky finger pushes the "a" a lot, but what does my right pinky finger do? Well, it pushes the :, ', ", ?, /, ., >, ?, ¿, ÷, and æ. I guess in the immediate vicinity it does a lot, but not without having to move. I guess the left one has to push the q, and the z in addition to the a.

Anyway, "back to the OP," after reading this discussion, it seems my sentence is right, no changes needed.
 
  • #19
Moonbear
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Mk said:
Code:
Several months earlier, American businessman and retired US Naval 
Intelligence officer Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow on charges of
espionage; he had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed 
torpedo.
Is my use of the semicolon good? Everything look right?

I'm siding with the folks who voted against its use there.

However, I do not agree with those who are arguing the word "however" should be avoided like the plague. :wink: Sometimes, it is necessary to point out contrasts, or conflicting evidence, to give a full picture of what you're describing. Other times, the "however" is clarifying why someone else is wrong. :biggrin:

But, in the sentence above, you're describing cause and effect or the relationship between two events. In other words, you want the second clause to be a dependent clause to strengthen the relationship. I'm going to vote in favor of using ", because" in place of the semi-colon rather than splitting that statement into two sentences. Your usage, technically, is not grammatically incorrect, but, stylistically, it is not the strongest way to connect those two thoughts.

For those who need help on the uses of semi-colons, this is a helpful site:
http://www.wisc.edu/writing/Handbook/Semicolons.html
 
  • #21
Bystander
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Mk said:
Code:
Several months earlier, American businessman and retired US Naval 
Intelligence officer Edmond Pope was arrested in Moscow on charges of
espionage; he had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed 
torpedo.
Is my use of the semicolon good? Everything look right?

Ya done good. The two actions are related. The relation(s) between the two actions are unknown; he may have been arrested for wearing mismatched socks rather than for espionage; it may be a quite common business transaction in Moscow to be buying torpedo plans. If you don't use the semicolon, the information in the second clause is as useful as the statement, "He had breakfast at a McDonald's in Keokuk last week."

Commas? Around Edmond Pope? Only if the arrest has to do with the fact that John Doe is a businessman and former intelligence officer; that is, the arresting authorities do not care who he is, but what he is and has been.

You have written a concise, clear construction, using punctuation in a textbook fashion. A+.
 
  • #22
Mk
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You have written a concise, clear construction, using punctuation in a textbook fashion. A+.
Why thank you! :biggrin: :approve:
 
  • #23
DaveC426913
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Moonbear said:
I'm siding with the folks who voted against its use there.
I am against those who side with the folks who voted against its use there.:devil:
 
  • #24
arildno
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For some reason, the sentence construction bothers me.
I would have chosen:

"Several months earlier, American businessman and retired US Naval
Intelligence officer Edmond Pope, who had been trying to buy the plans for an ultrahigh-speed torpedo, was arrested in Moscow on charges of espionage."

I'm not sure why I prefer this construction, though.

(Might have something to do with placing the attempted crime and the societal reaction to it in the "correct" time line.)

Possibly, the info about the attempted crime should stand in parentheses.
 
  • #25
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The only time I use semi-colons is when I am coding :)
 

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