Is the use of a semicolon now outdated?  I notice when using Microsoft Word, that often it will indicate that a semicolon should be used instead of a comma.  However, looking through a few  of the current books it seems that its use is limited.  So, shorter sentences, or just ignore the prompt and throw in a comma.  What does everyone else think?

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A publisher will decide when a semicolon should be put in and when you should just start a new sentence. When they edit your work (and they'll do that a couple of times) they'll remove any punctuation that can be done without. The younger generation (myself included) never learnt grammar in school, so we're unfamiliar with the purpose of the semicolon. Publishers are aware of that which is why they play with the punctuation - but when you submit, don't write for the grammatically retarded. We're not the ones who'll decide whether you'll be published or not. Make the right impression, then let the publisher decide how to dumb your stuff down!

Nine times out of ten, the prompt is there to make the sentence more readable. If you get the prompt, but you think you've used too many semicolons in the preceding passage, try rewording the sentence to make the main clause clearer or split the two clauses into two sentences. What ever works.
Thanks Jessica, I'm old school and I agonise over every punctuation placement. As a beginner writer this has taken a HUGE weight off my mind, perhaps now I might be able to let it flow without , backspace, delete, in/out, yes/no. However I will ensure that I am not writing for the grammatically retarded. Miss Turnbull (High School English teacher and grammar mentor) would be mortified if I did anything less...
I've heard editors and agents say they hate semicolons. Most people missuse them anyway.
Thanks Jack, I have had a look at your member site, and like your style. Would like to add you to my friend list !! You sound a little like Sue Grafton, nice and gritty..
All hail the semicolon. It's one of the most useful forms of punctuation.
As a writer AND an editor, I've never heard of an editor or publisher who dislikes semicolons for the sake of them.
A publisher doesn't make decisions about punctuation/ That's what an editor is for.
And please don't ever put THAT much trust in a publisher. There's no guarantee they will give you an editor who knows any more (these days) about punctuation than you do.
Go out; be adventurous; learn what the humble semicolon is really for. Use it. Don't be afraid of it. Do not let untrained editors and their often clueless publishers ruin even more of the English language just because THEY don't know any better.
Thank you Lindy, so attention to detail is valued as a writer. As a beginner writer I thought my question may have been a little too basic (ie that I should know the answer before I even typed a word) for the published writers here on CrimeSpace. I thank you for your input, it seems I may have to reconstruct many sentences, oh well !! backspace, delete, in/out, yes/no here we come....
Thanks Dan, short sentences are certainly favoured by DeMille (As you all know he is my fav) so, I can use a full stop to shorten a sentence. A semi colon and a comma. Hmmmm choices, think I need to turn the Microsoft Word punctuation prompt off. Or, have another glass of champagne......
Yes Gaile do turn off the M-Word punctuation nazi. It's there for letters and documents and thesisees and the like - NOT for writers of fiction like us whose job it is to rush headlong at ALL the 'rules of writing' and make them our own. Take no prisoners. But you can only break the rules if you actually know what they are.
BTW are you also on FB?
Now there's a book I need, a Break the Rules Book for writers, could also do with the original as well. ie the 'The Dummies Guide to writing fiction', bloody hell there probably is one.. Yep, a FBer I am, just do a search I'm easy to find....
Jeez, now the semicolon is off limits! Actually, there is a very precise rule for using it: it separates two complete (having both subject and verb) sentences, if (big if) the second sentence amplifies on the first. It can be replaced by a period, but not by a comma. Putting a comma between two complete sentences causes a "comma splice", a big no-no!

It is quite true that editors don't necessarily know the finer points of grammar. :)
And the Word-grammar thingy is quite often totally wrong!
I love the semicolon. Among other things, it's the prettiest punctuation mark; it almost looks like musical notation. And you can use it, as I just did, to link two gramatically complete sentences that are so closely related -- usually one modifying the other -- that a full stop would chop up the thought.

I also think that the anti-semicolon movement has to do with the received wisdom that people want short sentences. That they can read fast. Like these. Never long enough to get lost in. Never long enough to be interesting.

Although our society is definitely drifting toward the utilitarian, there's no reason for all prose to read like barbecue assembly instructions. You'll never see a semicolon in the directions for assembling a barbecue, and that alone is a reason to fight for them.


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