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On Semicolon Usage and Infinitives

PoeJoe
Posts: 3,822
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12/26/2009 2:28:43 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Overall, this community knows its grammar, and we are good writers, for the most part. But I'm growing sick and tired of a few grammatical errors that keep on showing up time and time again--namely, misused semicolons and split infinitives. These are errors that we should be smart enough not to make. It is with this intention that I post this thread. Don't make these mistakes, people. It's not too hard.

1) Semicolon usage. There are two main uses for the semicolon. The first is to indicate separations between lists. For example, in the following two sentences...

(a) I invited John, Bob, my brother, Mary, my mother, Susan, and my chiropractor.
(b) I invited John; Bob, my brother; Mary; my mother, Susan; and my chiropractor.

...the first indicates that seven people were invited, while the second indicates only five were. In the second sentence, "my brother" and "Susan" are appositives modifying "Bob" and "my mother" respectively. In other words, "Bob" and "my brother" are the same person, and "my mother" and "Susan" are the same.

The second reason to use a semicolon is to combine two closely-related independent clauses (i.e. complete sentences). Here are some examples...

(c incorrect) I like hamburgers more, however, for health reasons, I should have a salad.
(c correct) I like hamburgers more; however, for health reasons, I should have a salad
(c correct) I like hamburgers more, but for health reasons, I should have a salad
(c correct) Although I like hamburger more, I should have a salad for health reasons.

(d incorrect) The enemy is something religious people are susceptible to; mind control.
(d correct) The enemy is something religious people are susceptible to: mind control.

(e incorrect) Exactly; that's why I am a champion.
(e correct) Exactly, that's why I am a champion.

(f incorrect) I want to punch Bob in the face, I want to hurt him.
(f correct) I want to punch Bob in the face; I want to hurt him.
(f correct) I want to punch Bob in the face. I want to hurt him.

In (c), the first example is wrong because there are two independent clauses separated only with a comma. The third example is also correct, because it is a coordinating conjunction, one of the seven that exist in the English language: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. The fourth example is correct, because it uses the subordinator "although." You can learn more about subordinators here: http://www.class.uidaho.edu.... Note that "however" is neither a coordinating conjunction nor a subordinator.

In (d), "mind control" is not an independent clause (i.e. a complete sentence). Don't treat it as such.

In (e), "exactly" is an adverb, not an independent clause. Don't treat it as such. I've seen the same thing done with "furthermore," "moreover," "also," and "not to mention."

In (f), there are two independent clauses separated only by a comma. Either you have to put a coordinating conjunction or subordinator after the comma (as in example a), or you have to split the two independent clauses with a period or semicolon. As a personal style choice, I wouldn't overuse the semicolon.

2) Split infinitives. Every once in a while, split infinitives are inevitable, but don't overuse them. Take the following sentences as examples...

(g incorrect) Watch this video on how to not get hit by cars.
(g correct) Watch this video on how not to get hit by cars.

(h incorrect) He ran to the store to quickly retrieve his forgotten backpack.
(h correct) He ran to the store quickly to retrieve his forgotten backpack.

In (g), the first example splits the infinitive "to get." Don't do this.

In (h), the first example splits the infinitive "to retrieve." Don't do this.
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wjmelements
Posts: 8,206
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12/26/2009 2:40:46 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
The Texas Exit Level Englsih Exam is a joke. This is pretty much the highest level of grammar they teach us.
in the blink of an eye you finally see the light
Cerebral_Narcissist
Posts: 10,806
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12/28/2009 3:05:46 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
I am sorry, I am British, we don't, get, taught, grammar, in state; schools.

To me a semicolon is part of the digestive tract.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
Cerebral_Narcissist
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12/28/2009 3:06:48 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
PS: Split infinitives are no longer a grammatical error, the rules have been changed.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
PoeJoe
Posts: 3,822
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12/28/2009 3:24:53 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/28/2009 3:06:48 AM, Cerebral_Narcissist wrote:
PS: Split infinitives are no longer a grammatical error, the rules have been changed.

Notice how I said, "Every once in a while, split infinitives are inevitable, but don't overuse them." I agree that they're fine every once in a while, but more often than not, it's better not to split an infinitive when the structure permits such an alternative.

Moreover, stuff like "to be, or to not be" just sounds silly.
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leet4A1
Posts: 1,986
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12/28/2009 3:29:19 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
I hope you can sleep tonight now.
"Let me tell you the truth. The truth is, 'what is'. And 'what should be' is a fantasy, a terrible terrible lie that someone gave to the people long ago. The 'what should be' never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it. There is no 'what should be,' there is only what is." - Lenny Bruce

"Satan goes to church, did you know that?" - Godsands

"And Genisis 1 does match modern science... you just have to try really hard." - GR33K FR33K5
studentathletechristian8
Posts: 5,810
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12/28/2009 7:32:43 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
Really, PoeJoe? I find myself constantly correcting others on thier misuses of grammar, but what is the point of creating this thread? People on this site either type too quickly too care about grammar mistakes, or disregard grammar principles to make an idea easier to understand. I've known how to utilize semicolons and infinitives my entire life. I realize how to use them; therefore, I do not need this lesson.
johngriswald
Posts: 1,294
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12/28/2009 8:29:45 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
lol I am 12 years old and what is this.
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omelet
Posts: 416
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12/28/2009 9:38:29 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/26/2009 2:28:43 PM, PoeJoe wrote:
(h incorrect) He ran to the store to quickly retrieve his forgotten backpack.
(h correct) He ran to the store quickly to retrieve his forgotten backpack.

Sorry bro, but those have different meanings. In one of them, he is planning on retrieving the backpack quickly. In the other, he is running quickly, and we don't know how much time he plans to spend retrieving the backpack.

If you want to avoid split infinitives and preserve the meaning of the "incorrect" sentence, you would say "He ran to the store to retrieve his forgotten backpack quickly."
Cerebral_Narcissist
Posts: 10,806
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12/28/2009 10:18:08 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/28/2009 3:24:53 AM, PoeJoe wrote:
At 12/28/2009 3:06:48 AM, Cerebral_Narcissist wrote:
PS: Split infinitives are no longer a grammatical error, the rules have been changed.

Notice how I said, "Every once in a while, split infinitives are inevitable, but don't overuse them." I agree that they're fine every once in a while, but more often than not, it's better not to split an infinitive when the structure permits such an alternative.

Moreover, stuff like "to be, or to not be" just sounds silly.

Actually further to the point split infinitives have never been a grammatical violation, they certainly are not now. If "to be, or to not be" sounds silly don't use it. To boldly go, sounds better to my ears than to go boldly which sounds clumsey.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
Cerebral_Narcissist
Posts: 10,806
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12/28/2009 10:19:11 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/28/2009 9:38:29 AM, omelet wrote:
At 12/26/2009 2:28:43 PM, PoeJoe wrote:
(h incorrect) He ran to the store to quickly retrieve his forgotten backpack.
(h correct) He ran to the store quickly to retrieve his forgotten backpack.

Sorry bro, but those have different meanings. In one of them, he is planning on retrieving the backpack quickly. In the other, he is running quickly, and we don't know how much time he plans to spend retrieving the backpack.

If you want to avoid split infinitives and preserve the meaning of the "incorrect" sentence, you would say "He ran to the store to retrieve his forgotten backpack quickly."

Good point.
I am voting for Innomen because of his intelligence, common sense, humility and the fact that Juggle appears to listen to him. Any other Presidential style would have a large sub-section of the site up in arms. If I was President I would destroy the site though elitism, others would let it run riot. Innomen represents a middle way that works, neither draconian nor anarchic and that is the only way things can work. Plus he does it all without ego trips.
feverish
Posts: 2,716
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12/28/2009 4:03:54 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/28/2009 7:32:43 AM, studentathletechristian8 wrote:
People on this site either type too quickly too care about grammar mistakes...

he he
studentathletechristian8
Posts: 5,810
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12/28/2009 7:43:06 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/28/2009 4:03:54 PM, feverish wrote:
At 12/28/2009 7:32:43 AM, studentathletechristian8 wrote:
People on this site either type too quickly too care about grammar mistakes...

he he

Glad you caught it ;)
InsertNameHere
Posts: 15,699
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12/30/2009 12:22:46 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
This isn't directly related to this topic, but one annoying thing I encounter on almost a daily basis while talking to people is double negatives. It's "I can't do anything" rather than "I can't do nothing", people!
PoeJoe
Posts: 3,822
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12/30/2009 12:32:44 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
At 12/30/2009 12:22:46 PM, InsertNameHere wrote:
This isn't directly related to this topic, but one annoying thing I encounter on almost a daily basis while talking to people is double negatives. It's "I can't do anything" rather than "I can't do nothing", people!

Well, double negatives aren't always wrong. For example, "double negatives aren't always wrong" means something entirely different from "double negatives are always correct."

In any case, does anyone want to redo this debate with me, concerning the use of "yall": http://www.debate.org...?

And does anyone want to debate with me the uses of "that" and "which." It is my contention that they are completely interchangeable.
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