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How to punctuate more sentences

How to punctuate more sentences
Hand Writing

Here are a few more guidelines for punctuating sentences, offered in response to comments on my How to punctuate a sentence post.

Semi-colons
A reader asked when it’s appropriate to join sentences with a semi-colon. The semi-colon is a good choice when sentences are clearly related, when they seem to go together, when a period would create an overly emphatic stop between sentences. Alas, there’s no rule to determine whether sentences are related in a way that makes a semi-colon a good choice. Making this decision seems to me a matter of acquired intuition.

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The presence of a connecting word or phrase (such as nevertheless, therefore, thus, even so, in contrast) is a good sign that you’re in semi-colon territory. But longish sentences, even if they’re clearly related, are likely to be easier for a reader to take in if they’re separated by a period.

One caution: it’s easy to overuse the semi-colon. As an undergraduate, I often used semi-colons indiscriminately; I joined sentences together in long, unwieldy chains; my excitement about tying ideas together carried me away; as you can see in this example, the result is not reader-friendly.

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Horst Grundkenfelder’s comment added a helpful detail about semi-colon use: when one or more commas appear within items in a series, semi-colons should separate the items. Monty Python makes it easy to illustrate this point:

The menu offered limited choices: egg and bacon; egg, sausage, and bacon; egg and Spam; egg, bacon, and Spam; and egg, bacon, sausage, and Spam.

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Dashes
Two readers asked about the dash. It’s a very useful element of punctuation, as it allows for greater condensation in the presentation of ideas. The dash is appropriate in setting off an element that strongly interrupts the movement of a sentence. For instance:

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman — the one oblique and elliptical, the other expansive and declamatory — might be said to have invented modern American poetry.
Three instruments — clarinet, trumpet, and muted trombone — create the unusual tone colors of Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.”

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Commas
My examples with items in a series (“wine, women, and song”) all included a comma before and, the so-called serial comma or Oxford comma. I’m aware of course that opinions differ on that final comma’s necessity. Keeping that comma seems to me the better choice, simplifying, in one small way, the problems of punctuation. If you always put the comma in, you avoid problems with ambiguous or tricky sentences in which the comma’s absence might blur the meaning of your words.

Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the serial comma, giving arguments for and against. And Shaine Mata, who, like me, likes the serial comma, has invented some wonderful examples to argue for its use: A Lesson on Commas in a Series.

The most important thing to remember about punctuation: it’s a matter of conventions, shared agreements that help bring clarity to written communication. If you don’t agree this sentence unpunctuated difficult to read can serve as a last attempt to persuade. If you do agree, that last sentence — unpunctuated, difficult to read — can serve to confirm what you already understand.

Michael Leddy teaches college English and blogs at Orange Crate Art.

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

1. You’re depressed about your home life.

No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

3. You can’t stop snooping.

Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

4. You’re afraid of commitment.

If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

7. You chase past feelings.

It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

Final thoughts

If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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