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Clarity in Writing and Fear of Semicolons bY Japanese Translation Company


Many people shy away from the use of semicolons completely.

Japanese Translation Company Japan Tokyo

Unlike other punctuation, such as periods, commas, and exclamation marks, they can be completely replaced by other punctuation mark marks; the lowly semicolon is often ignored because the writer does not want to chance misusing punctuation in a situation where use of the punctuation in question is not mandatory at all. Proper use, however, will add conciseness, clarity and style to your writing – a skill highly valued by Japanese translation companies!

Use of semicolons can be broadly summarized as separation of related clauses and separation of items in a complex list. Note my use of the semicolon in the opening paragraph. I could have divided these clauses with a period, but I wanted to indicate the relatedness between them. That is, it is BECAUSE we can get by without using them that professional Japanese translators (or writers in general) tend to want to avoid taking the risk with their use. In addition to emphasizing the relatedness between the clauses, if your work has a lot of small sentences in it, using semicolons instead of periods in some places will give your work variety and thus improve its readability.

Whereas the first usage may come under style, the second use is sometimes necessary to avoid confusion. When separating items in a list, it is possible to do so using commas alone. However, the comma is also used in other ways and substituting this with a semicolon often adds clarity. Take a situation where a child is marking places on a map:

Billy took out a crayon and put a star next to Austin, Texas, Seattle, Chicago, and Maine.

At first glance it may seem that Billy has marked five places, but Austin is in Texas and the comma there is just used to separate the words. This can be written with greater clarity as follows:

Billy took out a crayon and put a star next to Austin, Texas; Seattle; Chicago; and Maine.

This indicates more clearly that four locations are being discussed.

Both these uses are very pertinent to Japanese-to-English translators. As noted in previous articles, Japanese writers love their long, rambling, never-ending sentences. Knowing how to break up sentences, including lists, is paramount when aiming to produce work with high clarity and readability. The semicolon is thus an important weapon in your armory.



About the Author
Simon Way is a contributing author to SAECULII YK, the owner of Japanese Translation Company Tokyo, Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news by Japanese Translation Services

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