Letter from a Semicolon

Dear Students,

Salutations. My name is Sam Ike Olan, but my closest companions refer to me as “Sam the Semicolon.” I am writing this letter because my relevance in writing appears to be rather confusing to some of you. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Some writers may even misuse me, believing that I serve a similar purpose to that of Connie the Comma. Today, I hope to provide some clarification on my significance and show you how to properly utilize me in order to add some semicolon spice to your papers.

First and foremost, if you forget everything I say in this letter, remember this: I unite independent thoughts. This may seem vague and confusing at the moment, but just keep that sentiment in the back of your mind as we walk through this letter.

My main purpose in writing is to function as a bridge between coherent ideas (or independent clauses) that could otherwise stand alone as complete sentences. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a sentence from earlier in this letter:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence, and, as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

You may have noticed that Connie the Comma is shouldering quite a heavy load in the middle of this sentence. Let’s try to alleviate her workload. Looking at this sentence, you’ll see that there are two ideas being expressed here that could stand as their own sentences. Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence. As a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers. Instead of Connie the Comma having to be used repeatedly, I could function as a bridge between these two thoughts and keep them together as one sentence.

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Notice how my presence hasn’t changed the meaning of these sentences all that much. As I stated earlier, I merely connect two coherent ideas and make them one whole sentence.

Another thing to note regarding my use is that I generally connect two independent thoughts that build off of one another or are closely related. Technically speaking, you could use me to unite two ideas that aren’t correlated, but it is recommended to make sure the two thoughts have some relation to one another. Let’s look back at our example:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Not only do both of these independent ideas discuss my usage, but the second thought builds upon the original thought. The first thought is based around the lack of knowledge regarding me, while the second thought lays out the effect such uncertainty can have. This is exactly what I meant when I stated that I unite independent thoughts. My usage has connected these two related concepts and allowed the overall idea to flow much better (not to toot my own horn here).

A common misconception people have about my usage is that Connie the Comma and I are interchangeable. Although we may look similar in certain aspects, we most definitely are not indistinguishable. Let’s take one final look at our example sentence:

Many writers over the years have been mystified by my existence; as a result, they have chosen to exclude me from their papers.

Some individuals who are unfamiliar with me may think that it is appropriate to simply place Connie the Comma where I am in this example sentence. The truth is Connie the Comma is not strong enough to connect these two independent thoughts by herself. She would need a conjunction, or one of the FANBOYS[1], to help carry the two ideas. However, I can carry these thoughts with no additional help.

I shall end this letter with the sentiment I expressed near the beginning of this letter: I unite independent thoughts. If nothing else in this letter made sense to you, just remember that I am used to connect two ideas that could otherwise stand on their own.

I hope this letter gave some clarification on my usage and that you will continue to utilize me properly in your writing going forward.

Sincerely,

Sam “The Semicolon” Ike Olan

[1] This acronym describes the seven coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Written by Ryan (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Mind Crumbs

Perhaps the most basic definition of a metaphor is a figure of speech that equates two things for the sake of comparison and symbolism. It is a unique tool that helps people describe their feelings and emotions toward a certain person or thing as accurately as possible.

I loved reading and writing poetry growing up, and metaphors were one of my absolute favorite devices. Metaphors are splashes of color that beautify and give life to the words on the page. They cover the nakedness of dull expression with the elegant texture of a silky garment. See what I did there? Metaphors open doors to endless possibilities and invite the creators to explore their imagination freely.

I not only enjoy but have delight in creative writing through metaphors because it allows me to express my thoughts and ideas so clearly and precisely. Here are some of my absolute favorite ones:

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Pablo Picasso

Picasso is an incredible artist who needs no introduction, and I love this metaphor because it tells us that art offers new and exciting experiences and helps us get through the darker moments of our lives.

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

Khalil Gibran

This metaphor reminds me of another metaphor that illustrates the depth of the mind according to Sigmund Freud, who made the distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind. This idea is illustrated by an iceberg. The top (a small surface of ice) is the conscious mind while the bottom (a vast surface of ice under water) is the unconscious mind, also known as the subconscious mind. There is so much that we do not say, yet those thoughts affect our actions and feelings every single day, it is a rather scary thought.

“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

Benjamin Franklin

I love this one because it is such a cheerful yet chastening metaphor. When I do not have a lot on my mind or have rectified all my wrongs, I am a happier and a more colorful person—just like Christmas! In other words, the metaphor is telling us, “whatever you have not made right, do so if you want to be happy.”

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me will not hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.”

John 6:35

The Bible itself is essentially a poem. There are countless, beautiful examples of metaphors, especially in the Wisdom Books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job). However, I found this metaphor to be one of the most beautiful. Though Jesus compares himself to bread and water, it is clear to see that He is much more than that. Bread makes us full and water quenches our thirst, but we get thirsty and hungry yet again. Jesus, on the other hand, offers nourishment that lasts forever because it is for the soul.

I might not be as brilliant as Picasso or as elegant as Franklin, but I have found that using metaphors to express myself has led to the exploration and discovery of a new writer in myself. It has allowed me to learn from others and develop my own style. It has been a heavenly journey!

Written by Kenean (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

 

Letter from a Quotation Mark

Dear Students,

My name is Quinn, and I would like to take a moment to share a little bit about myself. The first thing you should know about me is that I am a twin. My sister, who is only a few minutes younger than me and always follows behind me where ever we go, is named Qiana. Together, we are quotation marks, me being the opening quote and Qiana being the closing quote. We are completely inseparable!

Qiana and I are both suckers for a quality quote, and you can always find us hanging around them. In fact, we get quite frustrated when someone quotes without inviting us to join the party. Our favorite kind of quotes are ones where three or more words are copied directly from either a primary or secondary source. If a quote is paraphrased, Qiana and I don’t bother showing up. With all this in mind, if you can remember just a few simple things about us, we should be able to get along just fine.

Firstly, whenever Qiana and I go to a quoting party, we usually invite our friends, Connie Comma and Petunia Period. Now, Connie, she’s not always the biggest fan of quotes, so I take it upon myself to stand between her and the quoted words. On the other hand, Petunia loves a good quote, and Qiana is nice enough to let her stand next to the quoted words. When we’re at a quoting party, we stand like this:

According to Collins Dictionary, “quotation marks are punctuation marks that are used in writing to show where speech or a quotation begins and ends.”

Sometimes Connie Comma and Petunia Period are in different positions. For example, Connie isn’t always free to join us at the party. Also, Petunia has a close friend named Cynthia Citation, and when she joins the party, Petunia prefers to stand behind her. When this happens, we stand like this:

The Visual Communication Guy reminds all his readers that Quoting doesn’t mean summarizing or paraphrasing; it means repeating exactly what someone said (par. 2).

Another reason that Petunia Period might not stand right next to the last word of the quote is when the author’s thoughts continue on after the quoted words. Here is an example of how we stand in this instance:

Quotation marks are used to enclose article titles or parts of a document but not larger works, such as an entire novel or encyclopedia.

Something else you should know about me and Qiana is that we are huggers! Whether we’re hugging the first letter of the quote or the ending punctuation, we’ve got to be hugging someone. We wouldn’t be caught dead at a quoting party standing like this:

The grammar website, English Sentences, states that   We use quotation marks for all kinds of things in writing and literature, like sharing quotations, adding emphasis, expressing dialogue, and identifying titles. 

Oh! I completely forgot to tell you that twins run in our family. Qiana and I have two baby brothers who are also twins named Quashawn and Quentin. They are a little bit smaller than we are but no less important. They accompany us to our quoting parties when we know that there’s going to be a quote inside a quote. At these kinds of quoting parties, we stand like this:

Matthew 4:19 states, And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (English Standard Version).

The last thing you need to know about me and my sister is that we sometimes get intimidated by long quotes. For example, in certain writing formats, block quotes are used for longer quotations. Block quotes are set apart from the author’s text and sometimes formatted differently. This is a lot of information, but the most important thing to remember is that Qiana and I never go to block quoting parties; they’re just not our thing!

Well, I hope that this letter has helped you to get a better idea of how to more effectively invite me, my siblings, and my friends to your quoting parties. Just remember, the most important rule is that you always invite us!

Sincerely,

Quinn Quotation Mark

Who’s who?

Quinn – opening quotation

Qiana – closing quotation

Quashawn – opening apostrophe quotation

Quentin – closing apostrophe quotation

Connie – comma

Petunia – period

Cynthia – citation

Written by Meredith (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Letter from a Hyphen

Dear Students,

Oh, hey! Can’t you see me here? What? You don’t remember me? Well, I am your old friend, Haleigh the Hyphen, the thin dash periodically used in writing. Although I might seem elusive at first, I really am a helpful punctuation mark.

For example, if you are writing compound numbers or fractions in your academic paper, then I am a crucial element to your sentence. Let’s say that you are writing the number 23 ¼ in your essay. In some formats, you would write it like twenty-three and one-fourth. Likewise, I am needed when connecting a series of numbers or dates. My function is not only helpful in academic writing, but it is also useful in the works cited portion of your paper. If you are citing numerous pages, you would squeeze me between the beginning page number and the ending page number. Perhaps you started reading on page forty-five and finished on page fifty. In this instance, you would simply use me like this: 45-50.

In order to clarify your writing, you should use me to distinctively distinguish between two words with the same spelling that have different meanings. As an illustration, the word “recover” means to find; however, re-cover means to repair. Although this might not seem like a big deal at first, I can guarantee you that I make a big difference when talking about your shiny, new Camero. By adding me, you will be able to distinguish between the two words and create clarity in your essay. You might also avoid panicking about the fancy things in your life.

Also, I can connect a prefix to a number, a capital letter, or a word that begins with the same letter the prefix ends with. For example, say there was a pro-American patriot who decided to re-evaluate his stance on the post-1920s view of women. In this instance, I am used in different ways in order to ensure that the rules are met. Without me, there would be some confusing and cluttered sentences. I am also an essential part of forming compound adjectives, joining invented words or long phrases used as adjectives, and connecting suspended compounds. Look at this goofy story to see what I mean: my friend is a well-known actress with a holier-than-thou attitude. She wanted a one- or two-year lease on an apartment in Hollywood; however, tragically, her ex-husband left her and took all of the money. Does that show you how important I can be in a sentence?

Lastly, I am used when words are divided at the end of a line. Although this is typically when you are hand-writing, it is still a vital part of my role as a punctuation mark. For example, if I decided to write an organized and correctly punctuated letter to my friend, then I would make sure that all of these rules are followed. I hope after reading this blog, you remember me and are no longer afraid of me. I cannot wait to show up in your writing!

Sincerely,

Haleigh the Hyphen

Written by Trisha (NEW: Click on author’s name to learn more about him or her!)

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Letter from a Comma

Dear Students,

Some of you might have noticed that I am a rather complicated punctuation mark. There are some hard fast rules for my use but some other times using me may seem completely random. You’ve heard terms like “phrase” (a group of words that does not contain both a subject and a verb) and “clause” (a group of words that contain both a subject and a verb, but not necessarily a complete thought). You’ve probably also learned to use me in some situations but not others. Yeah, commas are complicated. But Connie Comma is here to help! Let me see if I can clarify some of my convoluted rules. (By the way, did you see the places I was missing in this paragraph?)

Sadly, I’m not a very strong punctuation mark. I’m flattered that many of you think that I’m strong enough to hold together two complete sentences, but I can only make so many trips to the gym. Check out this sentence: The dog barked at the mailman, but the mailman did not pay attention. See how I’m used? My close buddies, the conjunctions for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, have to help me hold these big sentences together. Some of you make the opposite mistake and flatter the conjunctions in these situations, forgetting all about me! Always remember that both of us are needed to connect compound sentences.

Oh! I have also seen many of you excluding me from lists in one way or another. I must follow every word in a list, except the last word. For example, when I go to the store, I buy bread, ham, and cheese. When I cook soup, I add chicken, noodles, and salt to the broth. Do you see where I stand in these two lists? Some of you make lists like this: trees, bushes, and leaves. That is a list of only two things: Trees then bushes and leaves. In that situation, bushes and leaves are one item in the list because I was not included after bushes. When I separate the second-to-last and last items in a list, I am called an Oxford Comma, and I am always used in academic writing.

When you connect a dependent clause to an independent clause, you need to include me at the end of the dependent clause, such as is done at the beginning of this sentence. When I am not included the sentence just keeps going on and on and the meaning of the sentence becomes confusing (just as this sentence does because I wasn’t placed after the word “included”).  Also, with phrases that begin sentences, I am needed, just as this sentence demonstrates. In other words, every time an introductory phrase or clause is used, I should follow it!

Here are some nerdy terms for ya: appositive phrases, restrictive and non-restrictive modifiers, expressions of contrast, and direct address. All of these are situations in which I am needed. Those first two, appositives and modifiers, are basically glorified adjectives. For example, Connie (aka lil ol’ me), who is a comma, is going to help you understand when to use commas in these situations. In that sentence, the phrase “who is a comma” is a non-restrictive modifier; in other words, the sentence would have made sense without it. In these situations, my necessity can be determined by how essential that part of the sentence is to the rest of the sentence. If that sentence would not have made sense without the “who is a comma,” then I would not have been needed. For example, the teacher who has the mohawk gave me an A. In this sentence, if “who has the mohawk” was not included, it would be unclear who I was talking about. Therefore, I am not needed.

In expressions of contrast, however, I am always needed (just as with the “however” in this sentence). If a part of the sentence communicates what something is not, I should be there. Ants, although small in stature, are exceptionally strong. The “although” phrase does not communicate the same idea as the rest of the sentence; rather, it gives a side piece of information.

Someone once said, “All great things must come to an end.” This letter, I am afraid, must conclude soon. Just a couple more tips, and we will be finished. When direct quotes are used, I am needed with phrases that come before or after the quotes, such as the case in the first sentence of this paragraph. “There are too many comma rules,” exclaimed the harried English student. And don’t forget, if the phrase comes after the quote, the comma always goes inside the quotation marks (as seen in the example above).

States and dates: that’s the last thing we have to talk about. When incorporating cities and states into sentences, remember that I always follow the cities and states, unless the state ends the sentence. Check out this example: I went on a road trip from Dallas, Texas, to Ouachita, Arkansas. Notice a comma follows Texas, but not Arkansas because of its location in the sentence.

A similar rule applies to dates: commas always follow the day and the year, unless the year ends the sentence. For example, the car was bought on January 31st, 2010, and tuned up January 1st, 2013. Notice the comma after 2010, but not after 2013.

I hope you now better understand how to incorporate me into your academic and personal writing. I know I’m complicated and convoluted, but I make your writing so much clearer! If you have any questions or need clarification, just visit the DBU Writing Center. There are qualified, certified consultants there that know all about me!

Written by Michelle

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Letter from a Colon

Dear Students,

My name is Collin Colon. Not the biological organ, also known as the large intestine, nor the Costa Rican currency known as the colón, but the famed punctuation mark that makes the writing world go round. My use in writing is gravely important. I even consider myself as valuable as the period and the comma in the exciting realm of punctuation. Unfortunately, some of you do not quite understand my primary purpose, which is greatly upsetting to me. I’m often included in sentences where I have no business being. Other times, I’m even neglected altogether, creating a colon catastrophe. I’m nearly as misused as my poor comrade, Sam Semicolon. Instead of sulking about your horrendous misuse and atrocious avoidance of me, I’ve decided to enlighten you with ways to utilize me in your writing endeavors. Then, all of you will be able to fill your papers with captivating colons.

By definition, a colon is meant to tell readers the information which follows is closely related to the preceding clause. I am the go-to player for this move. So, when you plan to relate two similar clauses, choose me as the playmaker, and I will not disappoint. In fact, I am more effective at this skill than any other punctuation teammate of mine. Also, I typically follow an independent clause (or complete idea) and should not separate a verb from its complement or a preposition from its objective.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to use me: Living in apartments, I eat: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

While I agree that this person’s diet is rather strange, the real horror here is the way I am used. I am inserted in between the verb (eat) and its complement (sandwiches, etc.). It is unnecessary to the flow of the sentence and just downright offensive to my kind.

Here’s the proper way to write this sentence: Living in apartments, I eat the following: sandwiches, fish sticks, and chocolate chips.

Both clauses are closely related. One addresses the concept of eating in an apartment while the other lists specific foods consumed in this space. In this particular sentence, my primary purpose is to list the specific dietary choices made in apartment-living. Although there are methods to specify these food choices without me, adding my punctuation talents throws in some punctuation pizzazz.

I can also be used in an appositive sentence like this one: There is one food I refuse to eat: olives.

In this circumstance, I am an indicator of what food the writer is referencing. Once again, you could write a sentence about your least favorite foods and avoid using me altogether, but you would lose the dramatic effect that I provide. I serve as a suspenseful pause that instills tension within all readers before dropping the name of the food that is your biggest nemesis: olives (dun dun dun dun). In this way, I enhance sentences, making them belong on a Broadway stage and exciting college professors lucky enough to read your skilled prose.

Additionally, I can amplify or interpret clauses in order to draw out more meaning from them. For instance, desserts can add to a healthy diet: fresh fruits, yogurt, and nuts have nutritional qualities. This sentence needs interpretation; otherwise, readers would get an entirely false idea. Without the second clause added after me, people might think that any dessert can add to a healthy diet. They might even begin eating heavy portions of cake, pie, and other unhealthy desserts thinking that they are partaking in a beneficial diet. By utilizing me, I interpret this clause to mean a specific food that some might not even consider to be a dessert at all.

I serve many other purposes in writing, all of which are valuable to know. I introduce illustrative quotes that are taken from other sources. For example, In the words of Dwight K. Shrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager: “Bears, beets, Battle Star Galactica.” Also, I am used for formal letter salutations (To Whom It May Concern: ). I am used to separate the hour from minutes in a time notation (12:30). Also, I separate a title from a subtitle and separating (Collin Colon: A Punctuation Memoir). Finally, I separate a Bible chapter from its verse (Job 12:3).

I hope that I no longer see calamitous colon creations in sentences where I do not belong. However, I do hope that you will use me more for your benefit in writing. I am a convivial punctuation mark, and I will surely jazz up your writing.

Sincerely,

Collin Colon

Written by Jack

For more information on how to properly use colons and other punctuation marks, check out our Colons handout and the Quick Reference Flyer page of our website!

 

Handling Criticism: Five Lessons from The Great British Baking Show

Handling criticism is hard. Regardless of whether the feedback you receive is constructive or destructive, listening to someone’s honest opinion about your work is never easy. If you’re a creator of anything, from art to poetry, music to prose, photography to food, you know the courage it takes to submit your work to the inspection and judgment of others.

Last year, I personally learned how challenging it can be to receive criticism. For six months, I worked to craft a short story I believed worthy of admiration. I then entered it into a contest in which a judge would provide me with feedback and I would have the possibility of winning the grand prize: publication alongside four other contestants. Waiting for the results, I told myself repeatedly that I would not be upset by the outcome. However, no amount of positive self-talk could have prepared me for the crushing blow that was dealt: no grand prize as well as negative feedback from the judge. I even missed out on being named an honorable mention.

I brooded quietly for several months after, dejected and full of self-pity, wondering why I had even tried. Then one day, as I was watching one of my favorite TV series, The Great British Baking Show (TGBBS), I got to thinking about what it means to properly and professionally handle criticism. If you have ever seen this wonderful show, you know just how brave those twelve bakers are to submit their creations to the judgment of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. Their often ruthless and unforgiving assessment of the contestants’ bakes can sometimes leave me cringing in my seat, but the way in which the bakers handle this feedback is always something worthy of praise.

After watching nearly every season of TGBBS, I have learned five valuable lessons about how to handle criticism.

  1. Remember that everybody has different taste buds.

Just because one person dislikes your creation doesn’t mean everyone will! There have been many times on TGBBS when bakers receive criticism from the judges on a bake that their family or co-workers adore and eat regularly. Other times, Mary and Paul disagree on the quality of a bake depending on how much alcohol the baker adds. Still other times, bakers graciously accept the judges’ criticism but share with the audience that they personally enjoy the bake. The fact is, no two persons are alike when it comes to appreciating food; similarly, no two persons are alike when it comes to appreciating art, literature, or anything else creative. Never let the criticism you receive from one person or one group of people dissuade you from sharing your creation with others.

  1. Accept when something you made is stodgy.

The ability to see your creation from another person’s point of view and accept his or her criticism is the sign of a truly confident and mature creator. It’s never easy for a Great-British-Baking-Show contestant to hear the dreaded word “stodgy,” but I have never once witnessed a baker who didn’t accept the evaluation with grace and dignity. In fact, many of the bakers are so self-aware that they approach the gingham altar knowing a poor critique is imminent and justified. Is this willingness to concede to the judge’s point of view a sign of weakness? Quite the opposite! Accepting criticism is the first step in growing to become a stronger, more experienced creator of any art form.

  1. Find your Mel and Sue!

Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from TGGBS is that you can’t make it on your own as a creator. Just as the hosts of the show, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, encourage the twelve bakers through thick or thin, so you must find the people in your life who will lift you up when you hit rock bottom. Much like the delicately balanced flavors of a cake, making it in this world as a creator also requires balance between the criticism you receive from judges offset by the encouragement you receive from friends and family. Only then can you truly be successful as a creator.

  1. Don’t be afraid to cry.

There’s no shame in tears; they show that you care passionately about your creations. Oftentimes on TGBBS, bakers come away from a harsh critique with tears in their eyes, asking themselves why they’re so terribly upset. “It’s only a cake, after all,” they state rationally. “Am I really crying over a biscuit?” others ask themselves, laughing through the tears. But the fact is, it isn’t just a bake, or a poem, or a painting, or a song. It’s what each of those creations represent: the hard work, time, and care put into creating it. Never be afraid to mourn a failure so long as you do not lose the will to try again!

  1. Live to bake another day.

Winston Churchill, a remarkable Brit much like the twelve Great-British-Baking-Show contestants, once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” While the criticism that many bakers receive from Paul and Mary is often harsh, not one of them walks away from the experience lacking the will to continue growing as a baker. This lesson, although simple, is perhaps the hardest to put into action, but it is also the most important. Criticism is hard to handle, but we must, and we shall, so that we too can live to create another day.

nadia 2

Written by Meredith

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