Grammar check: semicolon?

10 months ago | unice5656 (Member)

I'm pretty sure it's just a comma that goes in the following sentence, but I stared at it for too long and now both versions look wrong. Help.

"Being in a spare guest bed was one thing[,] being in the bed someone actually used for sleeping in was totally another."
"Being in a spare guest bed was one thing[;] being in the bed someone actually used for sleeping in was totally another."

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Responses

  1. Dary (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    Comma. The second statement isn't independent of the first.

  2. Billy Higgins Peery (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    Semi-colons are never necessary (except if you're listing things and at least one of the items on that list has a comma in its description, but let's ignore that for now).

    When in doubt, replace it with a period. If the period works, a semi-colon should work as well. Whether you should go back to the semi-colon or just use a period is another question altogether.

    "Any number of hitlers, are still not my problem." -Tempest
  3. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 10 months ago

    Semi-colon. Also, ditch the "in" from "sleeping in".

  4. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    Generally a semicolon gives the two parts equal weight, but the second statement seems the most important, so I'd comma it. Agreed with ditching "in" though.

  5. Psycho Gecko (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    Seeing as the rest of the Avengers showed up first and answered the question, the most I have to contribute to this is a Kurt Vonnegut quote that, while funny, I don't really agree with: "Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."

    I don't think Kurt put enough thought into this one. They could be a hermaphrodite that looks more male or more female, at which point the transvestite part really does matter. Though I'm also not entirely sure if there's any particular sex that hermaphrodites more closely resemble as a general rule. I mean, I know there's a particular situation in Salinas in the Dominican Republic, but that may not technically be the same sort of condition, even though those affected develop as girls until about 12.

    Also, the college thing might be very useful as a way to change up a style. If a character's supposed to come across as more educated or snobby or something, perhaps their own writing or way of speaking includes semicolons.

    Finally, be careful staring at writing too long. The more you think about how you spell words, the more difficult and counterintuitive it appears to be. If it's I before E, why is "weird" so weird?

  6. Alexander.Hollins (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    must... not.... get.... drawn into... conversation about.... hermaphrodites vs intersexual....

    OOO! IDEA !

  7. unice5656 (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    So... no consensus. The second part doesn't really seem like an independent sentence, but...

    I use semicolons. People who use semicolons for no reason should probably stop doing so, but it can give nuance to your sentences that periods can't. Honestly, any time someone says "NEVER" do something in writing, they're being the snob.

  8. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    I stopped worrying about semicolons after I read a couple trad published bestsellers with MULTIPLE semicolons on EVERY PAGE.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  9. Dary (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    I had a conversation with someone about this the other day (because I'm always worried my opinions on things like this are wrong), and she agreed with me that the problem isn't with the comma - it's that the sentence as a whole is awkward.

    You could cut it down, for a start ("Using a guest bed was one thing, but a bed somebody had already slept in? That was something else.") I'd go further than that, though, and suggest actually showing the discomfort through things like the feel/smell of the sheets.

  10. unice5656 (Member)

    Posted 10 months ago

    After an excessive amount of staring, I have decided that I will go with, "Being in a spare guest bed was one thing; being in the bed someone actually slept in was totally another." The second clause would be an independent sentence if you added "thing" to the end. Whether or not this is grammatically correct is probably still up for debate, but meh.

    @Dary: 'Showing' the feeling of "impropriety" is not something I am going to expend word count doing, but thanks for the suggestions.

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