01 Jun

Just shy of a full stop

I like writing in short sentences. It can get you to your central point a lot quicker.
It’s easier for the reader. It breaks things down into small chunks.

But … sometimes it’s nice not to have to bring a sentence to a grinding halt. Sometimes there’s still a point to be made within the same sentence, and you want it to continue.

If this is the case, there are some little grammatical helpers you can deploy.

The colon (:)
This can used prior to a long list of items.
It can be used to introduce a quote, perhaps from a book or film.
It can also be used as a less severe form of a full stop, where one part of the sentence (or ‘clause’) could easily exist without the other e.g ‘I was struggling to see what was ahead: there was a thick fog that just wouldn’t lift.’

An ellipsis ( …)
I love this bad boy: three little dots, but so useful.
You can use an ellipsis to highlight that part of a quote is missing e.g ‘During the war, he was detained in a prisoner of war camp … eventually released in 1945’.
You can also use it to indicate a pause in speech, or to show that you’re pondering something, or to show that your speech/thought is trailing off … or maybe not.

A dash / hyphen ( – )
A dash, or hyphen, can be used to show a shift in tone, or a pause e.g ‘I’m not sure what to do – time for some serious thinking on this matter’.
Hyphens, in pairs, can also be used to set aside information that’s important, but not essential, to the understanding of a sentence: He visited the shops – which were about two miles away – and bought milk and eggs.

The point is, you don’t always have to whack full stops into your writing. You can continue a sentence, if needs be, and use a full stop a little later on.

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