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Know your kinds of sentence pauses

April 21, 2024
Posted by:
Ron Seybold

Speed in stoppage is important to sentence pacing.

Punctuation is good manners and the way to the top of the story mountain. Using periods is the surest way to halt a sentence — but many sentences pause on the way to the next clause. Too many sentences with only a period could be choppy writing. Or they might increase tension and escalate action; it's your choice. You want to vary things. One mark to embrace, if you can: the semicolon.

In the racecourse of writing, the semicolon is the middle ground. It's a harder stop than a comma, lacking the drama of the long dash, and tossing away the authority of the colon. The semicolon invites a read to connect a nuance or an aspect to whatever comes before it.

Commas are the most elegant and vexing marks in our language. A great roundup of how to use them comes from ARTiculate and Kristen Chavez. She's got 17 different types of comma uses explained on her site; be prepared for options. When you're self-editing, this can be a way to transform your writing at the sentence level. It will feel like good work.

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