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How would you punctuate this?

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Dionna

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Help! How would you grammar/punctuation pros punctuate these type of sentences? They sound fine when read aloud, but I am unsure how to punctuate them. I could make simpler sentences, but I'm trying to give a one-breath moment to the character's thoughts.

I try to reach Peter to bop him, but before I know it he’s running up a long, twisty flight of stairs with broken rungs.


I'm so mad at Peter that even when Mr. Smith hands out music for the parade and Peter's in the band room saying “Sarah, look!” because he's making silly faces at me, I'm refusing to look.
 
#1 - October 26, 2015, 09:15 AM

Assuming no word changes, I think the punctuation is fine.
[I would delete the 'at me' in the second line because it's redundant]

I am a little confused why stairs have rungs though.
#2 - October 26, 2015, 09:48 AM

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Dionna, every time I chime in on one of these threads, it turns out I'm wrong.  :embarrassed3 So take my advice with considerable caution.

But I think your first sentence is fine.

I agree with David about "rungs." Steps for stairs, rungs for ladders, right?

You might consider switching the order of the last clauses in your second sentence. "I'm so mad at Peter than even when Mr. Smith hands out music for the parade and Peter's in the band room saying, 'Sarah, look!' I refuse to look, because he's making silly faces at me."

#3 - October 26, 2015, 10:11 AM
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 I might break up that second sentence and switch the order of the clause, but differently than Katie.

I'm so mad at Peter. Even when Mr. Smith hands out music for the parade and Peter's in the band room making silly faces and saying “Sarah, look!” I refuse to look.

Then again, do you need "I'm so mad at Peter"? I think you don't.
 
#4 - October 26, 2015, 10:15 AM
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 :hiding3   Just want to say the part of a step you put your foot on is called a tread. I don't know how technical you want to be. "Step" would also work.
#5 - October 26, 2015, 10:37 AM

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I try to reach Peter to bop him, but before I know it(,) he’s running up a long, twisty flight of stairs with broken rungs.


I'm so mad at Peter(,) (so) that even when Mr. Smith hands out music for the parade and Peter's in the band room saying(,) “Sarah, look!” because he's making silly faces at me, I'm refusing to look.
 

Technically speaking, you need the commas I put in (but they always say the rules are there to be broken). I moved the *so* to more easily punctuate it.
#6 - October 26, 2015, 10:39 AM
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Dionna

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Man, oh man, y'all rock my socks! I wish I had a critique group with all of you included. (Nobody ever wants me. :sadcry)

I have so many sentences like this that I puzzle over. I put commas in. I take them out. I use double dashes. I try parenthesis. I break them up. Move phrases around....Sometimes, I just delete the whole thing! By the time I'm done, I forget what I'm trying to accomplish! And this for an entire novel!!! AHHHH!

Thanks so much for the clarity.  I didn't even realize "rung" was wrong. I have to go look up the word for those thingies that go between the banister and the stair, part of the railing, I think?

THANKS!
#7 - October 26, 2015, 11:04 AM
« Last Edit: October 26, 2015, 11:22 AM by Dionna »

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Those are spindles or balusters, Dionna :)
#8 - October 26, 2015, 11:13 AM
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Dionna

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Just found it under a Google search under "anatomy of a staircase"! Thanks, Kell!
#9 - October 26, 2015, 11:21 AM

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Here's how I'd punctuate it.

Quote
I try to reach Peter to bop him; but, before I know it, he’s running up a long twisty flight of stairs with broken treads.

I changed the comma to a semi-colon after the first principle clause. I eliminated the comma between the two adjectives. Although it is correct to use it, I think the sentence reads more clearly without it.

In the second example, I'd add a comma after "that."
#10 - October 26, 2015, 12:13 PM
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Barbara, this is how I'll punctuate it, w/ a comma instead of the semicolon. I've heard that no semi colons should be used in children's lit. Have you ever heard that? It's a very annoying thing to avoid, esp. when it comes to tricky lists than can be easily clarified w/ semi-colons.
#11 - October 26, 2015, 12:32 PM

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Dionna, you're right. You should probably avoid semi-colons in fiction to avoid looking too academic. I'm taking back my advice. 
#12 - October 26, 2015, 12:39 PM
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I've heard that no semi colons should be used in children's lit.

Um, if kids never see semi-colons in the books they read, then how will they know anything about their proper use? Leaving them out for a reason like that just seems kind of...dumb. I have to wonder why some people dislike them so intensely.
#13 - October 26, 2015, 12:49 PM
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I reach out to bop Peter, but he's already running up the rickety, twisty staircase with the missing spindles.

I think the second sentence needs broken up and rewritten. It could be two or three. Hard to tell without seeing it in context with surrounding sentences.

And if you need a crit partner or reader, PM me. With two teens (one of whom I homeschool), three dogs, two cats, an elderly father-in-law, and a busy freelance schedule, I don't have time for a formal critique group. But I'm always looking for people to regularly swap with.
#14 - October 26, 2015, 01:14 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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I also like rickety, twisty, spindle-less staircase --- which skews your meaning a bit, but gives you a cleaner sentence with a fun rhythm.
#15 - October 26, 2015, 01:15 PM
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Um, if kids never see semi-colons in the books they read, then how will they know anything about their proper use? Leaving them out for a reason like that just seems kind of...dumb. I have to wonder why some people dislike them so intensely.

 :exactly  I think adults don't like semi-colons and colons because they saw so few of them growing up, and now they don't know what to do with them. And I have seen several colons and semi-colons in the MG books I've been reading lately.
#16 - October 26, 2015, 01:28 PM

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I have so many sentences like this that I puzzle over. I put commas in. I take them out. I use double dashes. I try parenthesis. I break them up. Move phrases around....Sometimes, I just delete the whole thing! By the time I'm done, I forget what I'm trying to accomplish! And this for an entire novel!!! AHHHH!
 

You're in good company. Oscar Wilde said, This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again. :lol4

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#17 - October 26, 2015, 01:33 PM
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 :lol5
#18 - October 26, 2015, 01:34 PM

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I've heard that no semi colons should be used in children's lit.

I see them regularly, in almost every MG novel I read. If you need 'em, use 'em.  :yup
#19 - October 26, 2015, 01:48 PM
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Dionna

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Um, if kids never see semi-colons in the books they read, then how will they know anything about their proper use? Leaving them out for a reason like that just seems kind of...dumb. I have to wonder why some people dislike them so intensely.

I agree! But every kidlit editor has told me to take them out--parenthesis, too! Most don't even like the double dash!

(Commas are so overrated!)
#20 - October 26, 2015, 02:06 PM

Dionna

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I see them regularly, in almost every MG novel I read. If you need 'em, use 'em.  :yup

It's nice to know they're back in style! So I guess the kidlit grammar police won't arrest my sentences, if I do? :copstop
#21 - October 26, 2015, 02:10 PM

Dionna

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I reach out to bop Peter, but he's already running up the rickety, twisty staircase with the missing spindles.

That's much better. Now I will go and analyze both sentences to determine why that was so hard for me to figure out!

And if you need a crit partner or reader, PM me. With two teens (one of whom I homeschool), three dogs, two cats, an elderly father-in-law, and a busy freelance schedule, I don't have time for a formal critique group. But I'm always looking for people to regularly swap with.

Really??????  :pickme

Swapping is the next best thing!
#22 - October 26, 2015, 02:14 PM

Dionna

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You're in good company. Oscar Wilde said, This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again. :lol4

Vijaya

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Was it Oscar Wilde who had an ongoing tiff with his copy editor over using prepositions at the end of a sentence????
#23 - October 26, 2015, 02:18 PM

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I don't know about Oscar Wilde and his copy editor, but there's nothing wrong with a preposition at the end of a sentence either. :)
#24 - October 26, 2015, 02:40 PM

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Really??????  :pickme

Swapping is the next best thing!

Really. I PMed you. Swapping works best for me.
#25 - October 26, 2015, 03:06 PM
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As far as I know, that's not an accepted use of the semi colon. Gold star to Andracil for her edits.

I do think the second sentence could be split into two also, but this is how I'd write it if it were staying together.

The semi colon has limited uses. It does not belong in front of a coordinating conjunction. You can use it if you remove the conjunction though. Google semi colon usage for more.

#26 - November 04, 2015, 06:36 PM

Dionna

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The semi colon has limited uses. It does not belong in front of a coordinating conjunction. You can use it if you remove the conjunction though.

I thought a semi-colon could be used before a coordinating conjunction; however, it's been a while since I've looked it up.  :studia
#27 - November 05, 2015, 03:26 AM

It was Kurt Vonnegut's opinion that semi-colons reflect weak writing. Gads, people have strong thoughts about that little devil. The semi-colon that is...well, about Vonnegut, too, I suppose.

In the work environment, I've noticed that folks who grew up in the fifties will often use it differently than those who grew up in the sixties. I was taught it joins two separate thoughts that aren't complete sentences but are related. I can't explain the rule behind the use I've seen from those from the fifties so here's an example: Enjoy the good weather; while you still can.

Not saying everyone from the fifties or sixties were all taught differently and all use it differently. It's just something I've seen enough of to know something happened somewhere.
#28 - November 06, 2015, 06:22 AM
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Dionna

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Very interesting, Arona! I've never seen the semi-colon used like that, but it makes sense to me!
#29 - November 06, 2015, 08:31 AM

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I thought a semi-colon could be used before a coordinating conjunction; however, it's been a while since I've looked it up.  :studia

However isn't a coordinating conjunction, but your use of the semi colon is correct. http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/coordinatingconjunction.htm. Here's the list of subordinating conjunctions and their use too: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/2/1/37/
#30 - November 23, 2015, 12:39 PM

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