Re: [Fwd: Re: Avoid the Semicolon in Tech Writing?]

Subject: Re: [Fwd: Re: Avoid the Semicolon in Tech Writing?]
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com
Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003 20:23:19 -0700

dmbrown -at- brown-inc -dot- com wrote:

I'll repeat: If the semicolon is used correctly, the reader won't even
notice it.

I disagree strongly. From my experience as a university instructor, I feel confident in saying that most people - even most educated people - don't know how to use it. If they don't know how to use it, how likely are they are know how to read it? People notice what they don't understand.

Of course there are, but that wasn't the point. All I said was that, if
you want to use "otherwise" in that construction in my department, it's
gotta look like that.

Fair enough. You can do anything you want - or that your boss will let you get away with.

But the point of the original question was whether using the semi-colon in technical documentation was a good idea or not. You seemed to be arguing that at times it was necessary. Clearly, it's not, in any absolute sense.
I do--at least in *good* technical documentation (and by "good" I mean
"grammatically correct"). :)

Why? Using a sentence fragment doesn't automatically make a sentence unclear. To my mind, clarity is much more important than grammatical correctness. If I had to choose between grammatical correctness and clarity, that dull thud you hear is grammatical correctnes being defenestrated.

I never said you couldn't rewrite the sentences. I said, if you want to
write them the way I showed, the semicolon is necessary.

Since the way you showed involves the semicolon, this is simply a circular argument. Why should you write them in the way you showed in the first place? It's only one of several choices, and, given the general ignorance of the semi-colon, a case could even be made that it's not the clearest way. You've stated your personal preference, but that says nothing to suggest the semi-colon is necessary for writing.


Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"Comes a heat wave, you can go down to the shore,
Comes a summon, you can hide behind the door,
Comes love, nothing can be done."
-Lew Brown, Sammy Stept, and Charles Tobias


[Fwd: Re: Avoid the Semicolon in Tech Writing?]: From: dmbrown

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