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"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

May, "; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." seem, maybe, a, "complete sentence"? May there not seem, maybe, a, "do-er", in this? Maybe, like, may there not seem, maybe, a, "noun"?

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  • Why do you think it should be/could be a complete sentence? Is the semicolon an issue here? Or is it something else?
    – J.R.
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 15:14
  • Hello, I may not think it may seem like a sentence. Maybe, I may not get that, "semicolon", and, or, "semicolons". What goes after a, "semicolon" may seem to got to seem a, "complete sentence"? I may not think, maybe, "; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish." seems a, "complete sentence". I thank you, J.R.. (May I place a period after that, maybe, epithet that may seem to contain a, period? I thank you.)
    – saySay
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 15:23
  • Oh, I see what you're asking now.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 16:23

1 Answer 1

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The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.

Is the part in bold a complete sentence? No, it's not.

Can I put a period after the word mean, and start a new sentence? Sure. No problem. While a typical sentence may have a "do-er" and "action," counterexamples exist. Particularly brief counterexamples. (As a matter of fact, you can find a few counterexamples in this paragraph.)

What follows a "semicolon," doesn't that need to be a "complete sentence?" Not necessarily. There are at least three rules for semicolon use: semicolons can be used to join two related sentences; semicolons can be used in conjunction with conjunctive adverbs, such as however or meanwhile; and semicolons can be used in lists of more than two items, particularly when commas are embedded in some of those items.

(That sentence may be long and hard to understand. It was meant to show how semicolons can be used in a list. See this link for more information.)

In this case, Stevenson has a list of two items, each with a comma:

The difficulty of literature is (a) not to write, but to write what you mean; and (b) not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish.

Thus, a semicolon is warranted.

That said, it's also worth pointing out that Stevenson wrote in the 1800s. Some stylistic conventions may have changed since then, so it wouldn't be surprising if some of his writing conflicted with modern guidance.

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  • Interesting. I thought, "complete sentences" go after, "semicolons". I think I got it utilizing a, maybe, "conjunction", "She calls it the bathroom; I call it the loo." Maybe, I think, what seems to get me seems, "Sure. No problem. While a typical sentence may have a "do-er" and "action," counterexamples exist. Particularly brief counterexamples. (As a matter of fact, you can find a few counterexamples in this paragraph." I think someone wrote, maybe, to me, maybe, something, like it, a, "complete sentence", may contain and utilizes a, "subject", a, "verb" and, "object"? I thank you, J.R..
    – saySay
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 17:32
  • @saySay Stevenson wrote in the 1800s. Some stylistic conventions may have changed since then, so it wouldn't be surprising if some of his writing conflicted with modern guidance.
    – user6951
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 20:56
  • Interesting. It seems to go to that. It may not seem like a, "complete sentence"? I guess, mostly, maybe, a, "complete sentence" may contain a, "subject", a, "verb", and, an, "object"? I thank you, pazzo. May, "Particularly brief counterexamples." may not seem a, "complete sentence"? I thank you.
    – saySay
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:09
  • @saySay - Please do not put terms like "complete sentence" in quotes, and put a comma beforehand. Your comments are very hard to read. Please use asterisks instead, to put these terms in italics, Like this: I guess, mostly, maybe, a complete sentence may contain a subject, a verb, and an object?
    – J.R.
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:42
  • To address what's confusing you, yes, simple sentences have a subject and a verb, and maybe an object. She drove to the store. I rode my bike. We met there. We bought groceries. I paid. We left. But these are only guidelines to help a beginner understand the structure of a sentence. Writers don't consider these to be rules that must always be followed. Fragments are used sometimes. Notice how this Wikipedia article ends: an incomplete sentence may be considered perfectly acceptable English.
    – J.R.
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:49

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