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Old 04-11-2009, 03:20 PM
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Ok, for the record I did look at the punctuation threads. Could anyone please tell me if the following sentence is right as far as punctuation goes? Thanks.

Over time, death has been many things; dark and skeletal or inconspicuously human; kind or indifferent.

I really don't think this is right but I'm horrible with punctuation so some help would really be appreciated.

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Old 04-11-2009, 03:26 PM
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I would write it like this: Over time, death has been many things: kind or indifferent, dark and skeletal or inconspicuously human. I only wish I knew what it means.
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Old 04-11-2009, 03:33 PM
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I'm writing an essay about death personified in literature.
Thanks.
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Old 04-11-2009, 03:35 PM
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I agree with Paco. However, I was taught that semicolons are used to separate items in a list if they a) follow a colon or b) contain commas within the items. Yours would be a mix of both cases, assuming I'm reading your intent correctly:

Over time, death has been many things: dark and skeletal or inconspicuously human; kind or indifferent.

Over time, death has been many things: dark and skeletal or inconspicuously human; kind or indifferent.

The comma brings some sense to the first either/or/and statement. Which sense you want is up to you.

EDIT: I was about to suggest alternate punctuation, like ellipses and dashes, but they're too casual for an essay.
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Old 04-16-2009, 05:03 AM
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Hi Netti,

The semi-colon is the problem. I would write it like this:

Over time, death has been many things: dark and skeletal or inconspicuously human, kind, or indifferent.

In using "over time", do you mean historically? "Historically, death has been many things: " would read better, as "Over time" relates to the passing of time and really warrants "death has become many things".

I disagree that dashes are too "casual" for an essay. Dashes are entirely formal and useful punctuation marks and you can generally substitute a dash for a colon (although a dash signifies more of a pause than a colon, so can be used for more dramatic effect. Sometimes a dash can also imply a sudden change of direction, rather than a summation such as we see here).

Cheers
Karin
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Old 04-16-2009, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Echo75 View Post
I disagree that dashes are too "casual" for an essay.
Really? It depends on the college, I suppose. Punctuation preferences vary from teacher to teacher, and certainly around the world.

I know dashes have a long and proud history of use by the best authors, and I wish I could use them in essays, but my professors regard them much like chat-speak or comic book sound effects. (Come to think of it, m-dashes feature prominantly in comic books. "You don't mean--" KERPOW! ) I suspect many professors don't know how to use them, so they assume that dashes are wrong. I've lost points over them in the past, so now I don't risk it.
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Old 04-16-2009, 06:48 PM
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You too, eh, HoiLei? I discovered through much confusion that dashes are not appreciated in the world of academic writing, and I'm clueless as to why. My theory is that they just want bare-bones, functional writing. Nothing fancy or attractive like in fiction--just an information-conveying medium. Man, and scientists used to write their notes in verse. Why can't academic writing be information-conveying and pretty? Bah.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:59 PM
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Well, that may be, but I'd fight to the death with those people if they dare to reject something merely because it has dashes - after all, without them, we'd be left with equivocal sentences. At times.
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Old 04-17-2009, 04:51 AM
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Allow me to introduce you to my research writing teacher, SW, and I'll oil up the dueling sabres.
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Old 04-17-2009, 06:12 AM
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She (WB and I have the same one) took off 20 points for the 'Mechanics' grade because I used a couple of emdashes and semicolons. Apparently she doesn't understand either of them. Everything else mechanics-wise was perfect, but I still got a 4 instead of a 5 because of her personal preferences. I mean, if I'd used them liberally, maybe I'd understand, but...I had maybe two emdashes and four semicolons in the whole ten pages. *mutters something to self about pitchforks*
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