Tuesday, August 7, 2012

But I like semi colons.

Semi colons and colons may be very nice pieces of punctuation, but they are not used much in fiction writing as they tend to slow the reader down. Commas and full stops (periods) are the punctuation of choice. For the same reason sentences tend to be short, with fewer minor clauses. The reader wants to know who the villain is, or when the hero will get his girl, not have to wade through a sixty-word sentence and read it two or three times to be sure of the meaning. Three twenty-word sentences will keep her reading and understanding everything much better.
Having said that, all publishers have their own house style. If you, as an author, take your writing very seriously, and tend to cry when asked to change your semi colon into a period and a new sentence, I suggest you read your contract carefully before signing it. Most contracts have a paragraph about the book following house style and the author being expected to accept reasonable edits to conform with house style.
Check this out:
The heroine, her long golden locks flowing in the breeze, her cerulean blue orbs filled with fear, her hands clasped to her heaving bosom, her knees wobbling in a terror so great they could hardly keep her upright, turned and cast an anguished glance behind her; the villain was right there, his wicked hands clawed around her precious Princess Pettlepie’s furry frame, as Princess Pettlepie gave a plaintive little meow, demanding the heroine rescue her.
I bet you can all turn that into four or five much more dramatic sentences without changing the meaning at all.

Helen Woodall
Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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