Sunday, November 29, 2009

We have a request!

Semicolon2 Mary has requested that we do a post about the semicolon. I know that Lori is a little under the weather, and I'm sure I have more time on my hands than does Guido, so I'll do a quickie about this handy little punctuation mark.

I like the semicolon; I use it fairly often.

That's the first example of usage. Two independent clauses that are similar and are not joined by a conjunction such as and. The key is that the clauses must be able to stand on their own as a sentence. If and were in there, no further punctuation would be necessary. I like the semicolon and I use it fairly often.

I like the semicolon; however, I feel that I don't use it often enough.

I like the semicolon; I feel, however, that I don't use it often enough.

In this case, two independent clauses are joined by a linking adverb. The linking adverb is followed by a comma, or if within the second clause, offset by commas.

I like the semicolon, the exclamation point, and the ampersand; the semicolon is my favorite.

In this case, there are again two independent clauses, with internal punctuation in the first clause. This sentence could also include a linking adverb such as however in the second clause.

Some of my favorite punctuation marks are the semicolon, an underused mark; the colon, which introduces a list; and the exclamation point, which indicates emphasis or surprise.

Semicolon This scenario shows the separation of a series in which each item uses internal punctuation. This is probably the usage I employ most often, for when some or all items in a series require a little further explanation, which is offset by commas.

In the first three scenarios, I think the important thing to remember is that the two clauses need to be able to stand on their own in order for the semicolon to be used correctly. A common error is for a writer to substitute a comma for the semicolon. This results in a comma splice, which is two independent clauses joined by a comma. I think many of us remember from school that a comma splice was a most egregious error!

I hope you'll give the semicolon another look; it separates elements of a sentence nicely, and can keep a writer from falling prey to run-on sentences.

5 comments:

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I know I use it at work, especially when providing separation between a listing after the colon. Thanks, I feel cleansed ;o)

FrankandMary said...

Thank you, Beth. I have roughly 3456 more grammar & English questions, but I feel those should be handled with paid-for remedial classes, not through your blog.

I do appreciate your taking the time to do this. ~Mary

Lori said...

Brava, Beth!! That was a great job explaining the semi-colon, and thank you for running with the ball. I emailed Mary and told her I didn't know which of us would, but that ONE of us would address her request (and I was hoping you or Guido would beat me to the punch). I love semi-colons and use them, correctly, I believe, quite often. I am currently a bit high on cold medicine, by the way; so I'm not feeling too bad at the moment! ;) Haha! I just reread what I'd written up to this point and I had three stupid spelling or structural mistakes to correct -- I'm blaming it on the cold medicine.

natalie said...

cool beans!
natalie
Lurkynat

Kyle said...

Super post Beth. The semi-colon is a favorite of mine too.