When it comes to things literary, I can be a snob at times. It is seldom (very seldom indeed) that I get excited about the work of writers who are not yet dead. And if the writer happens to be younger than I am, hails from Malaysia and hasn’t got a book to his name, it’s likely I’ll never notice him till he kicks the bucket – twice.
But my days of literary snobbery are over! In a Facebook status update recently, a dear old friend asked me to have a look-see at his son’s blog, ‘Hold That Pose’. Frankly, I went in not expecting to see anything new. However, I ended-up reading the blog from beginning to end, immersed in each word as if they were the sweet, calming breath of a long lost beloved.
The semi-colon (;) has to be one of the most confounding punctuation marks in the English language. An early strategy of mine – in the days when I lacked the motivation to look-up any rules – had been to avoid using them altogether. A full stop, or so I thought, would have done the same job equally well. So, what business did I have making life more difficult than it already was by messing about with semi-colons? Why take the trunk road when you could take the PLUS highway and break existing speed-limit laws in relative comfort?
A reader asked if I could possibly do a posting on colons (:) and semi-colons (;). In deference to that request, I have decided to postpone my posting on gapping and bracketing commas to a later date. However, I will only attempt to deal with colons in this posting; semi-colons are quite involved and will require an entire and separate posting.
The good news is that colons are fairly easy to use correctly since they have only one major role. As such, this posting will not be too difficult to follow. But first, here are some ground rules:
Joining commas, as the name suggests, are used to join two complete sentences. However, we cannot just plonk a comma between two complete sentences and consider them married. Consider the following sentences:
Labu is the cook. Labi is the chauffeur.
Trying to join these sentences by simply inserting a comma between them would be wrong (see following):
Labu is the cook, Labi is the chauffeur.
I actually had four months to complete and submit an entry to the MPH-Alliance Bank National Short Story Competition. Instead of doing just that, I ended-up using the four months I had to royally screw it all up. Here are the lessons I learnt:
I used to think I knew how to use commas (,). They are marks you put after words where you want to indicate a pause, right? Well, not exactly! Huh? How then do you use commas?
I have been made to understand that there no less than four different kinds of commas. No wonder commas are probably the punctuation mark most misused in the English language: there are so many of them! Here are the four kinds of commas:
They didn’t really have much of a choice. There simply hadn’t been enough sales to meet the overheads; not for well over a year. It was a small wonder that they retained us for as long as they did. Personally, I would have made the same decision; only difference is, I would have done it much sooner. Under the circumstances, I guess bearing a grudge would not be very appropriate. This was why I didn’t torch the place down on my last day at work.