5Ws Magazine One - Page 14

“Colons and semicolons can be helpful when used correctly. Sadly, they are often sprinkled throughout manuscripts without any regard for sentence construction. I wish that authors would use commas and full stops wherever they can. Only when these fail to convey the full meaning, and the need arises for a supporting phrase, should they introduce semicolons or colons. A phrase that is an additional connecting thought to a sentence already written, can be separated from it with either a semi colon (if it is, itself, a sentence) or a colon (if it is not). ‘She brought the clothes in from the washing line; they were dry...’ ‘They were dry’ could stand alone as a sentence but, on its own, its meaning is unclear, so a semi colon, before the phrase, is correct. ‘She brought the clothes in from the washing line: dry or not...’ ‘Dry or not’ cannot stand alone as a sentence, so a colon is required to link it to the complete sentence that precedes it.” We have lots of examples to share with you in future issues of the magazine. The key question to ask yourself, is, How easy is my book to read aloud, if the reader has not read it before? When grammar and punctuation are good, it is easy to read it aloud, without any preparation. Readers will stumble when writers have not expressed themselves clearly. Commas tell the speaker when to pause and breathe. They can indicate an aside, or a change of pace. Unless your story is full of dialect it should allow the speaker to talk in a natural way. Even if your character’s speech is ungrammatical, the narrative, should carry the reader through the story as clearly as possible.