We should know that even the most
convincing ideas in the world expressed
in the most beautiful sentences, will move nobody if those ideas are not properly connected.
Providing transitions between ideas is largely a matter of attitude. Writers must never assume that their
readers know what they know. In fact, it is a good idea to assume not only that your readers need all the information
that you have and need to know how you arrived at the point you're at, but also that they are not quite as quick as you are.
You might be able to leap from one side of the stream to the other; believe that your readers need some stepping stones and
be sure to place them in readily accessible and visible spots.
There are four basic mechanical considerations in providing
transitions between ideas: using transitional expressions, repeating key words and phrases, using pronoun reference, and using
tags run the gamut from the most simple — the little conjunctions: and, but, nor, for, yet, or, (and sometimes)
so — to more complex signals that ideas are somehow connected — the conjunctive adverbs and transitional
expressions such as however, moreover, nevertheless, on the other hand.
The use of the little conjunctions — especially and
and but — comes naturally for most writers. However, the question whether one can begin a sentence with a small
conjunction often arises. Isn't the conjunction at the beginning of the sentence a sign that the sentence should have been
connected to the prior sentence? Well, sometimes, yes. But often the initial conjunction calls attention to the sentence in
an effective way, and that's just what you want. Over-used, beginning a sentence with a conjunction can be distracting, but
the device can add a refreshing dash to a sentence and speed the narrative flow of your text. Restrictions against beginning
a sentence with and or but are based on shaky grammatical foundations; some of the most influential writers
in the language have been happily ignoring such restrictions for centuries.
Below you can see a chart of the transitional devices
(also called conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions) accompanied with a simplified definition of function (note that
some devices appear with more than one definition):
again, also, and, and then, besides, equally important, finally, first, further,
furthermore, in addition, in the first place, last, moreover, next, second, still, too
also, in the same way, likewise, similarly
granted, naturally, of course
although, and yet, at the same time, but at the same time, despite that, even
so, even though, for all that, however, in contrast, in spite of, instead, nevertheless, notwithstanding, on the contrary,
on the other hand, otherwise, regardless, still, though, yet
certainly, indeed, in fact, of course
example or illustration
after all, as an illustration, even, for example, for instance, in conclusion,
indeed, in fact, in other words, in short, it is true, of course, namely, specifically, that is, to illustrate, thus, truly
all in all, altogether, as has been said, finally, in brief, in conclusion,
in other words, in particular, in short, in simpler terms, in summary, on the whole, that is, therefore, to put it differently,
after a while, afterward, again, also, and then, as long as, at last, at length,
at that time, before, besides, earlier, eventually, finally, formerly, further, furthermore, in addition, in the first place,
in the past, last, lately, meanwhile, moreover, next, now, presently, second, shortly, simultaneously, since, so far, soon,
still, subsequently, then, thereafter, too, until, until now, when
A word of caution: Do not interlard your text with transitional
expressions merely because you know these devices connect ideas. They must appear, naturally, where they belong, or they'll
stick like a fishbone in your reader's craw. (For that same reason, there is no point in trying to memorize this vast
list.) On the other hand, if you can read your entire essay and discover none of these transitional devices, then you must
wonder what, if anything, is holding your ideas together. Practice by inserting a tentative however, nevertheless,
Repetition of Key Words and Phrases
The ability to connect ideas by means of repetition of key
words and phrases sometimes meets a natural resistance based on the fear of being repetitive. We've been trained to loathe
redundancy. Now we must learn that catching a word or phrase that's important to a reader's comprehension of a piece and replaying
that word or phrase creates a musical motif in that reader's head. Unless it is overworked and obtrusive, repetition lends
itself to a sense of coherence (or at least to the illusion of coherence). Remember Lincoln's
You can fool some of the people all of the
time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
In fact, you can't forget Lincoln's advice, because it has become part of the music of our language.
Remember to use this device to link paragraphs as well as
Pronouns quite naturally connect ideas because pronouns almost
always refer the reader to something earlier in the text. I cannot say "This is true because . . ." without causing the reader
to consider what "this" could mean. Thus, the pronoun causes the reader to sum up, quickly and subconsciously, what was said
before (what this is) before going on to the because part of my reasoning.
We should hardly need to add, however, that it must always
be perfectly clear what a pronoun refers to. If my reader cannot instantly know what this is, then my sentence is ambiguous
and misleading. Also, do not rely on unclear pronoun references to avoid responsibility: "They say that . . ."
Music in prose is often the result of parallelism, the deliberate
repetition of larger structures of phrases, even clauses and whole sentences. This principle of parallel construction requires
that expressions of similar content and function should be outwardly similar. The likeness of form enables the reader to recognize
more readily the likeness of content and function. Unskillful writers often violate this principle, from a mistaken belief
that they should constantly vary the form of their expressions. It is true that in repeating a statement in order to emphasize
it writers may have need to vary its form. But apart from this, writers should follow carefully the principle of parallel
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook
method, while now the laboratory method is employed.
Formerly, science was taught by the textbook
method; now it is taught by the laboratory method.
The left-hand version gives the impression that the writer
is undecided or timid; he seems unable or afraid to choose one form of expression and hold to it. The right-hand version shows
that the writer has at least made his choice and abided by it.
By this principle, an article or a preposition applying to
all the members of a series must either be used only before the first term or else be repeated before each term.
The French, the Italians, Spanish, and
The French, the Italians, the Spanish,
and the Portuguese
In spring, summer, or in winter
In spring, summer, or winter (In spring,
in summer, or in winter)
Correlative expressions (both, and; not, but; not only, but
also; either, or; first, second, third; and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical construction. Many violations
of this rule can be corrected by rearranging the sentence.
It was both a long ceremony and very
The ceremony was both long and tedious.
A time not for words, but action
A time not for words, but for action
Either you must grant his request or
incur his ill will.
You must either grant his request or
incur his ill will.
My objections are, first, the injustice
of the measure; second, that it is unconstitutional.
My objections are, first, that the measure
is unjust; second, that it is unconstitutional.
When making comparisons, the things you compare should be
couched in parallel structures whenever that is possible and appropriate.
My income is smaller than my wife.
My income is smaller than my wife's.
Look at the following paragraph:
The ancient Egyptians were masters of preserving
dead people's bodies by making mummies of them. Mummies several thousand years old have been discovered nearly intact. The
skin, hair, teeth, fingernails and toenails, and facial features of the mummies were evident. It is possible to diagnose the
disease they suffered in life, such as smallpox, arthritis, and nutritional deficiencies. The process was remarkably effective.
Sometimes apparent were the fatal afflictions of the dead people: a middle-aged king died from a blow on the head, and polio
killed a child king. Mummification consisted of removing the internal organs, applying natural preservatives inside and out,
and then wrapping the body in layers of bandages.
Though weak, this paragraph is not a total washout. It starts
with a topic sentence, and the sentences that follow are clearly related to the topic sentence. In the language of writing,
the paragraph is unified (i.e., it contains no irrelevant details). However, the paragraph is not coherent.
The sentences are disconnected from each other, making it difficult for the reader to follow the writer's train of thought.
Below is the same paragraph revised (corrected) for coherence.
Italics indicates pronouns and repeated/restated key words, bold indicates transitional tag-words, and underlining
indicates parallel structures.
The ancient Egyptians were masters of preserving
dead people's bodies by making mummies of them. In short, mummification consisted of removing the internal organs,
applying natural preservatives inside and out, and then wrapping the body in layers of bandages. And the process was
remarkably effective. Indeed, mummies several thousand years old have been discovered nearly intact. Their skin,
hair, teeth, fingernails and toenails, and facial features are still evident.Their diseases in life, such as
smallpox, arthritis, and nutritional deficiencies, are still diagnosable. Even their fatal afflictions are
still apparent: a middle-aged king died from a blow on the head; a child king died from polio.
The paragraph is now much more coherent. The organization
of the information and the links between sentences help readers move easily from one sentence to the next. Notice how this
writer uses a variety of coherence devices, sometimes in combination, to achieve overall paragraph coherence.
Paragraph Development and Topic Sentences
A typical expository paragraph starts with a controlling idea or claim, which it then explains, develops, or supports with evidence.
Paragraph sprawl occurs when digressions are introduced into an otherwise focused and unified discussion. Digressions and
deviations often come in the form of irrelevant details or shifts in focus.
When I was growing up, one of the places I enjoyed most was the cherry
tree in the back yard. Behind the yard was an alley and then more houses. Every summer when the cherries began to ripen, I
used to spend hours high in the tree, picking and eating the sweet, sun-warmed cherries. My mother always worried about my
falling out of the tree, but I never did. But I had some competition for the cherries — flocks of birds that enjoyed
them as much as I did and would perch all over the tree, devouring the fruit whenever I wasn't there. I used to wonder why
the grown-ups never ate any of the cherries; but actually when the birds and I had finished, there weren't many left.
No sentence is completely irrelevant to the general topic of this paragraph (the cherry tree), but the
sentences Behind the yard was an alley and then more houses and My mother always worried about my falling out of
the tree, but I never did do not develop the specific idea in the first sentence: enjoyment of the cherry tree.
Shift in Focus
It is a fact that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. Statistics show that
in states with capital punishment, murder rates are the same or almost the same as in states without capital punishment. It
is also true that it is more expensive to put a person on death row than in life imprisonment because of the costs of maximum
security. Unfortunately, capital punishment has been used unjustly. Statistics show that every execution is of a man and that
nine out of ten are black. So prejudice shows right through.
No sentence in this paragraph (to the left) is completely irrelevant to the general
topic (capital punishment), but the specific focus of this paragraph shifts abruptly twice. The paragraph starts out with
a clear claim in sentence 1: It is a fact that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. Sentence 2 provides
evidence in support of the initial claim: Statistics show that in states with capital punishment, murder rates are the
same or almost the same as in states without capital punishment. Sentence 3, however, shifts the focus from capital punishment
as a deterrent to crime to the cost of incarceration: It is also true that it is more expensive to put a person on death
row than in life imprisonment because of the costs of maximum security. Sentence 4 once again shifts the focus, this time
to issues of justice: Unfortunately, capital punishment has been used unjustly. Sentences 5 and 6, Statistics show
that every execution is of a man and that nine out of ten are black and So prejudice shows right through, follow
from 4 if one believes that executing men and blacks is in fact evidence of injustice and prejudice. More importantly, however,
we are now a long way off from the original claim, that capital punishment does not deter crime. The focus has shifted from
deterrence to expense to fairness.
The following paragraph on the same topic is much more effectively focused and unified:
The punishment of criminals has always been a problem for society. Citizens have had to
decide whether offenders such as first-degree murderers should be killed in a gas chamber, imprisoned for life, or rehabilitated
and given a second chance in society. Many citizens argue that serious criminals should be executed. They believe that killing
criminals will set an example for others and also rid society of a cumbersome burden. Other citizens say that no one has the
right to take a life and that capital punishment is not a deterrent to crime. They believe that society as well as the criminal
is responsible for the crimes and that killing the criminal does not solve the problems of either society or the criminal.
Sentence 1 puts forth the main claim: The punishment of criminals has always been
a problem for society. Sentence 2 specifies the exact nature of the problem by listing society's choices: Citizens have had
to decide whether offenders such as first-degree murderers should be killed in a gas chamber, imprisoned for life, or rehabilitated
and given a second chance in society. Sentence 3 further develops the topic by stating one point of view: Many citizens argue
that serious criminals should be executed. The reasons for this point of view are then provided in sentence 4: They believe
that killing criminals will set an example for others and also rid society of a cumbersome burden. Sentence 5 states an opposing
point of view: Other citizens say that no one has the right to take a life and that capital punishment is not a deterrent
to crime. Sentence 6 states the reason for the opposing point of view: They believe that society as well as the criminal is
responsible for the crimes and that killing the criminal does not solve the problems of either society or the criminal.
A topic sentence is a sentence whose main idea or claim controls the rest of the paragraph; the body of
a paragraph explains, develops or supports with evidence the topic sentence's main idea or claim. The topic sentence is usually
the first sentence of a paragraph, but not necessarily. It may come, for example, after a transition sentence; it may even
come at the end of a paragraph.
Topic sentences are not the only way to organize a paragraph, and not all paragraphs need a topic sentence.
For example, paragraphs that describe, narrate, or detail the steps in an experiment do not usually need topic sentences.
Topic sentences are useful, however, in paragraphs that analyze and argue. Topic sentences are particularly useful for writers
who have difficulty developing focused, unified paragraphs (i.e., writers who tend to sprawl). Topic sentences help these
writers develop a main idea or claim for their paragraphs, and, perhaps most importantly, they help these writers stay focused
and keep paragraphs manageable.
Topic sentences are also useful to readers because they guide them through sometimes complex arguments.
Many well-known, experienced writers effectively use topic sentences to bridge between paragraphs. Here's an example of how
one professional writer does this:
Soon after the spraying had ended there were unmistakable signs that all was not well. Within
two days dead and dying fish, including many young salmon, were found along the banks of the stream. Brook trout also appeared
among the dead fish, and along the roads and in the woods birds were dying. All the life of the stream was stilled. Before
the spraying there had been a rich assortment of the water life that forms the food of salmon and trout — caddis fly
larvae, living in loosely fitting protective cases of leaves, stems or gravel cemented together with saliva, stonefly nymphs
clinging to rocks in the swirling currents, and the wormlike larvae of blackflies edging the stones under riffles or where
the stream spills over steeply slanting rocks. But now the stream insects were dead, killed by DDT, and there was nothing
for a young salmon to eat.
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
The first part of Carson's topic
sentence — Soon after the spraying had ended — is a transitional clause that looks back to the previous
topic: DDT spraying. Topic sentences often begin with such transitional clauses referring to the previous paragraph. The second
part of the topic sentence — there were unmistakable signs that all was not well — shapes and controls
what follows. This kind of bridging helps the reader follow Carson's argument. Notice, too, how Carson further helps the reader follow her argument by providing a more focused version
of the topic sentence later in the paragraph — All the life of the stream was stilled. This sentence tells us
exactly what Carson meant by all was not well.
Always Capitalize this:
The first word of every sentence.
The first-person singular pronoun, I.
The first, last, and important words in a title. (The concept "important words" usually does
not include articles, short prepositions (which means you might want to capitalize "towards" or "between," say), the "to"
of an infinitive, and coordinating conjunctions. This is not true in APA Reference lists (where we capitalize only the first
word), nor is it necessarily true for titles in other languages. Also, on book jackets, aesthetic considerations will sometimes
override the rules.)
Specific persons and things: George W. Bush, the White House, General Motors Corporation.
Specific geographical locations: Hartford, Connecticut, Africa, Forest Park Zoo, Lake Erie, the Northeast, the Southend. However, we do not capitalize compass
directions or locations that aren't being used as names: the north side of the city; we're leaving the Northwest and heading
south this winter. When we combine proper nouns, we capitalize attributive words when they precede place-names, as in LakesErie and Ontario, but the opposite happens when the order is reversed: the Appalachian and Adirondack mountains. When a term is used descriptively, as opposed to being an actual
part of a proper noun, do not capitalize it, as in "The California deserts do not get as hot as the SaharaDesert."
Names of celestial bodies: Mars, Saturn, the Milky Way. Do not, howver, capitalize earth,
moon, sun, except when those names appear in a context in which other (capitalized) celestial bodies are mentioned. "I
like it here on earth," but "It is further from Earth to Mars than it is from Mercury to the Sun.
Names of newspapers and journals. Do not, however, capitalize the word the, even when
it is part of the newspaper's title: the Hartford Courant.
Days of the week, months, holidays. Do not, however, capitalize the names of seasons
(spring, summer, fall, autumn, winter). "Next winter, we're traveling south; by spring, we'll be back up north."
Historical events: World War I, the Renaissance, the Crusades.
Races, nationalities, languages: Swedes, Swedish, African American, Jewish, French, Native
American. (Most writers do not capitalize whites, blacks.)
Names of religions and religious terms: God, Christ, Allah, Buddha, Christianity, Christians,
Judaism, Jews, Islam, Muslims.
Names of courses: Economics, Biology 101. (However, we would write: "I'm taking courses in
biology and earth science this summer.")
Brand names: Tide, Maytag, Chevrolet.
Names of relationships only when they are a part of or a substitute for a person's
name. (Often this means that when there is a modifier, such as a possessive pronoun, in front of such a word, we do not capitalize
Let's go visit Grandmother today. Let's go visit my grandmother today.
I remember Uncle Arthur. I remember my Uncle Arthur. My uncle is unforgettable.
This also means that we don't normally capitalize the name of a "vocative" or term of endearment:
Can you get the paper for me, hon?
Drop the gun, sweetie. I didn't mean it.
Capitalizing People's Titles and the Names of Political
of the most frequently asked questions about capitalization is whether or not to capitalize people's job titles or the names
of political or quasi-political entities. Most writing manuals nowadays seem to align themselves with the tendency in journalistic
circles: less is better. When a title appears as part of a person's name, usually before the name, it is capitalized: Professor
Farbman (or Professor of Physics Herschel Farbman), Mayor Perez, U.S. Secretary of State Colin
Powell. On the other hand, when the title appears after the name, it is not capitalized: Herschel Farbman, professor
of history; Eddie Perez, mayor of the city of Hartford; Juan Carlos, king
of Spain. Although we don't capitalize "professor of history" after the individual's
name, we would capitalize department and program names when they are used in full*: "He worked in the Department of
Behavioral Sciences before he started to teach physics." (We do not capitalize majors or academic disciplines
unless they refer to a language, ethnic group, or geographical entity: Roundbottom is an economics major, but he loves
his courses in French and East European studies.)
capitalization of words that refer to institutions or governmental agencies, etc. can well depend on who is doing the writing
and where or from what perspective. For instance, if I were writing for the city of Hartford, doing work on its charter or preparing an in-house document on appropriate office decor, I could capitalize the word
City in order to distinguish between this city and other cities. "The City has a long tradition of individual
freedom in selecting wallpapers." If I were writing for the College of Wooster's public relations staff, I could write about the College's new policy on course withdrawal. On the other hand,
if I were writing for a newspaper outside these institutions, I would not capitalize those words. "The city
has revamped its entire system of government." "The college has changed its policy many times."
not capitalize words such as city, state, federal, national, etc. when those words are used as
modifiers "There are federal regulations about the relationship of city and state governments. Even as
nouns, these words do not need to be capitalized: "The city of New York is in the state
of New York" (but it's New York City). Commonly accepted
designations for geographical areas can be capitalized: the Near East, the American South, the North End (of Hartford), Boston's Back Bay, the Wild West.
Directions are not capitalized unless they become part of the more or less official title of a geographical entity: "He moved
from south Texas to South Africa."
Capitalization in E-Mail
some reason, some writers feel that e-mail should duplicate the look and feel of ancient telegraph messages, and their capitals
go the way of the windmill or they go to the opposite extreme and capitalize EVERYTHING. That's nonsense. Proper and restrained
capitalization simply makes things easier to read (unless something is capitalized in error, and then it slows things down).
Without the little tails and leaders we get in a nice mixture of upper- and lower-case text, words lose their familiar touch
and feel. Text written in ALL CAPS is extremely difficult to read and some people regard it as unseemly and rude, like SHOUTING
at someone close at hand. Restrain your use of ALL CAPS in e-mail to solitary words that need further emphasis (or, better
yet, use italics or underlining for that purpose, if your e-mail client provides for that treatment).
Associated with the Internet
is considerable debate, still, about how to capitalize words associated with the Internet. Most dictionaries are capitalizing
Internet, Web, and associated words such as World Wide Web (usually shortened to Web),
Web page, Web site, etc., but the publications of some corporations, such as Microsoft, seem to
be leaning away from such capitalization. The Yale Style Manual recommends capitalization. The words e-mail and online are not capitalized.
most important guiding principle in all such matters is consistency within a document and consistency within an office or
Always use a period at the end of a sentence that makes a statement. There is no space
between the last letter and the period. Use one space between the period and the first letter of the next sentence. This goes
against the grain for people using the typography instilled by generations of old-fashioned typewriter users, but modern word-processors
nicely accommodate the spacing after a period, and double-spacing after a period can only serve to discombobulate the good
intentions of one's software.
Use a period at the end of a command.
in the poster essays no later than on Friday.
case of tremors, leave the building immediately.
Use a period at the end of an indirect
teacher asked why Maria had left out the easy exercises.
father used to wonder why Egbert's ears were so big.
Use a period with abbreviations:
Dr. Espinoza arrived from Washington, D.C., at
Notice that when the period ending the
abbreviation comes at the end of a sentence, it will also suffice to end the sentence. On the other hand, when an abbreviation
ends a question or exclamation, it is appropriate to add a question mark or exclamation mark after the abbreviation-ending
Did you enjoy living in Washington, D.C.?
Occasionally, a statement will end with
a question. When that happens, it is appropriate to end the sentence with a question mark.
can get to Boston quicker, can't we, if we take the interstate?
question was, can we end this statement with a question mark?
ended her remarks with a resounding why not?
(abbreviations [usually made up of the first letter from a series of words] which we pronounce as words, not a series of letters)
usually do not require periods: NATO, NOW, VISTA, LASER, SCUBA, RADAR. Abbreviations we pronounce by spelling out the letters may or may not use periods and you will
have to use a dictionary to be sure: FBI, NAACP, NCAA, U.S.A., U.N.I.C.E.F., etc.
We use an apostrophe to create
possessive forms, contractions, and some plurals.
The apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been left out of a contracted verb:
I am = I'm
you are = you're
she is = she's
it is = it's
do not = don't
she would = she'd
he would have = he would've
let us = let's
who is = who's
she will = she'll
they had = they'd
Whether or not contractions are appropriate in academic prose is a matter of personal taste and debate.
Here is a paragraph from Mother Jones Magazine from an article
which calls upon us to stop using antibiotics haphazardly. Where would you place this paragraph on a continuum of formality
to informality, and why?
Media reports have likely made you aware of this problem, but they have neglected
the implications. Your brother catches a cold that turns into a sinus infection. His doctor treats him with antibiotics, but
the bacteria are resistant to all of them. The infection enters his bloodstream — a condition known as septicemia —
and a few days later, your brother dies. (Septicemia is what killed Muppets creator Jim Henson several years ago.) Or instead
of a cold, he has an infected cut that won't heal, or any other common bacterial disease, such as an ear or prostate infection.
In possessives, the placement of the apostrophe depends on whether the noun that shows possession is singular
or plural. Generally, if the noun is singular, the apostrophe goes before the s. The witch's broom. If the noun
is plural, the apostrophe goes after the s: The witches' brooms. However, if the word is pluralized without
an s, the apostrophe comes before the s: He entered the men's room with an armload of children's clothing. If
you create a possessive with a phrase like of the witches, you will use no apostrophe: the brooms of the witches.
Remember that it's means it is or it has. Confusing it's with its, the
possessive of it, is perhaps the most common error in writing. Remember, too, that there is no appropriate contraction
for "there are." Don't confuse "they're," which means "they are" with "there are" (which can sound like "ther're," [or some
such set of rumbling r's] in casual speech).
An apostrophe is also used to form some plurals, especially the plural of letters and digits. Raoul got four A's last term and his sister got four 6's in the ice-skating
competition. This is particularly useful when the letter being pluralized is in the lower case: "minding one's p's
and q's" or "Don't forget to dot your i's." (In a context in which the plural is clear, apostrophes after upper-case
letters are not necessary: "He got four As, two Bs, and three Cs.") It is no longer considered necessary or even correct to
create the plural of years or decades or abbreviations with an apostrophe:
He wrote several novels during the 1930s.
There are fifteen PhDs on our faculty.
My sister and I have identical IQs.
(If you wrote Ph.D. with periods, you would add an apostrophe before the pluralizing "s": Ph.D.'s) If the
abbreviation or acronym ends in "S," it's a good idea to separate this final "S" from the pluralizing "s" with an apostrophe:
I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. . . . It is almost always a greater
pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn't get all the meaning
you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon
there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.
__ Lewis Thomas
Use a semicolon:
to help sort out a monster list: There were citizens from
Bangor, Maine; Hartford, Connecticut; Boston, Massachusetts; and Newport, Rhode Island. OR We had four professors on
our committee: Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics; Ronald Pepin, Professor of English; Cynthia Greenblatt, Professor
of Education; and Nada Light, Professor of Nursing.
to separate closely related independent clauses: My grandmother
seldom goes to bed this early; she's afraid she'll miss out on something.
The semicolon allows the writer to imply a relationship between nicely balanced ideas without
actually stating that relationship. (Instead of saying because my grandmother is afraid she'll miss out on something,
we have implied the because. Thus the reader is involved in the development of an idea—a clever, subliminal way
of engaging the reader's attention.)
It is rare, but certainly possible, that you will want a semicolon to separate two independent
clauses even when those two independent clauses are connected by a coordinating conjunction. This is especially true when the independent clauses are complex or lengthy and when there are commas within those independent
clauses. You might consider breaking those two independent clauses into separate sentences when this happens.
Coach Auriemma realized that his next recruiting class contained
two superb guards, a fine post player, and a power forward; but as of the end of the spring recruiting season, he was still
pushing to discover better first-year players for the interior positions.
Although smart word processors seem to have taken over the job of hyphenating broken words
at the right-hand end of our lines and spellcheckers can review our use of hyphens in other places, these technological marvels
are by no means infallible. Microsoft Word, for example, flags as misspelled almost any word with an unhyphenated prefix:
antidiscrimination and cogeneration, for example, are marked as misspelled words and re-sign, co-bra, ever-green,
and be-loved are marked as correctly hyphenated words by that software.* Generally, it is a good idea not to
use justified text in academic papers; that will cut down on a lot of decisions about hyphenating. The APA Publication
Manual, in fact, insists that you not break words at line-endings in any case, but that can lead to lines that are too
brief and aesthetically unbalanced.
The rules for hyphenating at line endings are so complicated that no one can be expected to
keep track of them. If you're ever in a situation where you have to hyphenate at line-breaks, go to a dictionary—unless
you can explain why you would break experience between the e and the r, that is, and then you can do
whatever you want. Remember that if you adjust one line-break for aesthetic reasons, that may well affect subsequent line-breaks
in the text.
Hyphens have other uses
creating compound words, particularly modifiers before
nouns (the well-known actor, my six-year-old daughter, the out-of-date curriculum
writing numbers twenty-one to ninety-nine and fractions (five-eighths,
creating compounds on-the-fly for fly-by-night organizations
adding certain prefixes to words: When a prefix comes before
a capitalized word or the prefix is capitalized, use a hyphen (non-English, A-frame, I-formation). The prefixes self-,
all-, and ex- nearly always require a hyphen (ex-husband, all-inclusive, self-control), and when the prefix ends
with the same letter that begins the word, you will often use a hyphen (anti-intellectual, de-emphasize), but not always (unnatural,
coordinate, cooperate). By all means, use a good dictionary when in doubt! There is no space between a hyphen and the character
on either side of it.