I recently read a novel with a section that went something like this: "I have often wished that I had born into a different family; that I had never studied art at college; that my voice weren't so high-pitched; and that I hadn't got married to the first woman I dated."

I haven't often seen that type of structure in novels, but I wondered if it was common?

Is it possible to use incomplete sentences after semi-colons when you are writing partial clauses that are continuations of a previous clause that you don't want to repeat? Basically the clauses are a kind of list.

For example:

I feel grateful that, for whatever reason, being near Sean makes me forget about my self-absorbed misery for a brief second; makes me forget the images of John and Riley I saw; forget the messages I found on John's phone; forget about the divorce that is looming.

Or how about something like this:

She’s a woman incapable of having a single solitary thought for another human being; a woman so brazen that I’ve seen her flirt with men right in front of their wives; the type of woman for whom advancement is the only thing that matters.

Any advice would be appreciated!

1 Answer 1


This is much easier to accept if it's a first-person narrative, because the book is written in your character's voice. Speech/monologue/dialogue is much more forgiving than prose narration. Since these snippets are clearly your narrator "speaking" to the reader, you have a lot of poetic license to be flexible with grammar. It sounds fine.

If anything, I'd use commas rather than semi-colons in those particular snippets because the individual clauses don't have commas themselves. You can get away with a string of fragments separated by commas here. If any clause had commas in it, then the semi-colons would be useful in separating them.


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