Word's grammar check tells me the second sentence below requires a semicolon rather than a comma

“If you don’t accept your physical limitations, you will burn out.” Elena was analytical again, the empathy absent from her tone.

This accepted answer tells me the semi-colon is probably OK (contrary to multiple other sources cited in comments to the question), but is probably a sign that my prose needs to be reworked.

It could be lengthened to

Elena was analytical again, and the empathy was absent from her tone.

Is my original version incorrect (why)? If I use a semi-colon as Word suggests, it would be the only one in the novel. What other options do I have to keep the sentence crisp without altering the meaning?

  • 9
    Your original version is perfectly grammatically correct.
    – Double U
    Feb 13, 2019 at 23:29
  • 8
    Computers are not proofreaders. Your first version is not only correct but it's, IMHO, better.
    – Cyn
    Feb 13, 2019 at 23:58
  • I think if you were going to lengthen it, the proper lengthening would be to Elena was analytical again, as the empathy was absent from her tone. This would follow the punctuation rules the grammar checker is applying, but I don't believe it would change the meaning.
    – Ed Grimm
    Feb 14, 2019 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Word's grammar checker is calibrated for documents, not for fiction. And even for documents, it is a bit of automated software, that is bound to make mistakes. You shouldn't trust it implicitly, and you shouldn't let it bully you.

As @DoubleU states in a comment, your original sentence is perfectly grammatically correct. In fact, adding a semicolon there would be incorrect and weird. (I do actually use semicolons. I would never put one there.)

A semicolon connects two independent clauses, you could sort of replace it with "and". (Here is more information.) But in your case, the clauses are not independent. If you stick an "and" there, as you've tried to do, you slightly change the meaning of the phrase. You imply that the absence of empathy in Elena's voice is independent from her being analytical. Which is not the case, is it?

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