Semi-Colon or Not?

On one of my lists there's been an ongoing discussion about the use of semi-colons.

At one time I liberally sprinkled all my writing with semi-colons. Not anymore.

For one thing, I think they tend to stick-out and be far more noticeable than a comma. An if you really think a semi-colon should be there, why not just make the phrase into two sentences?

What really cured me was when I had an agent many years ago and he scolded me for using semi-colons in dialogue. What he told me was, "People don't speak with semi-colons."

When I'm writing dialogue, I hear the character's voice in my head. When he or she would pause for a breath, a comma seems to work best to convey this. Of course a period follows a complete sentence.

Frankly, unless someone sprinkles semi-colons throughout his or her writing, I seldom notice. The key really is if the writing captures my interest enough that I don't pay attention to things like the use of semi-colons.

What do you think? 

Marilyn Meredith aka F. M. Meredith

Coming soon, A Crushing Death, #12 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.


GBPool said…
I use the semi-colon sparingly. What I use most is the ellipsis. Some don't like it. I love it... mostly because that pregnant pause says so much. It says the speaker is thinking about something or trying not to say something. Then the reader knows there is something important coming their way and they will be waiting for it... like the bomb explosion.
I love ellipsis--but have to be careful I don't over do it.
Lorna Collins - said…
Many people use both the ellipsis and the semi-colon incorrectly. As an editor, I remove nearly all the semi-colons and replace them with periods. Ellipses care only used when dialogue drifts off. If there is a break or when the speaker is interrupted, an em-dash is correct. (I personally love the look of an ellipsis and always have to keep myself in check so I only use it correctly.)

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