Friday, January 4, 2013

Semicolons

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Ah, thoughts of the weekend bring us so much joy! As the title of today's post suggests, I'll be talking about semicolons. If you struggle with this most interesting piece of punctuation and have a hard time knowing when to use it and when to leave it out, follow along. Grab those pens and notebooks because here we go!


Let's start with the definition:
sem·i·co·lon  /ˈsemiˌkōlən/: Noun - A punctuation mark (;) indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced than that indicated by a comma.

A semicolon is used to join two independent but related clauses. While this can also be done with a comma, the semicolon is more often used when one is using a conjunctive adverb (however, incidentally, otherwise, etc...) or transitional phrase (even so, as a result, matter of fact, etc...). Smaller coordinating conjunctions are the ones most often used with a comma (and, but, so, etc...).

Now an example:
I went out last night and have a hangover; I can't go to work today.

There are many ways to write these two statements using either a semicolon, periods, commas, or no punctuation at all. Let's break it down:
I went out last night and have a hangover, so I can't go to work today.
I went out last night and have a hangover. I can't go to work today.
I went out last night and have a hangover; as a result, I can't go to work today.
I can't go to work today because I went out last night and have a hangover.

I always remembered it as: If two sentences can rely on one another to further understanding, you can join them with a semicolon.

Semicolons are helpful in preventing stilted flow in your writing, adding interest, and creating variety. I can't tell you how many books I've read where the author uses periods too often and it results in short, choppy sentences that make my brain stumble along over the words. I usually don't read more than a chapter or two before I get frustrated and throw the book down.

Punctuation isn't scary if you take the time to learn about it. If you're a writer, this is me begging you to read all you can get your hands on about punctuation and grammar; it does matter.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

4 comments:

  1. I use em dashes too and I've been trying to figure out a hard and fast rule of when to decide on a semicolon or em dash. On the Grammar Girl website, it says to use the dashes when something exciting or dramatic is coming in the sentence. Great article as usual =)

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    1. Refresher courses are good sometimes. I'm a bit of a grammar nerd :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Heather :)

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  2. I love em dashes, as well, Heather. They are visually more interesting. But I appreciate a well-placed semicolon. It's funny, however, because my 7th grader has NO CLUE how to use one. Grammar is so getting lost on this generation. ;-(

    Matter of fact, the way I just used the semicolon (an emoticon for winking) is probably the ONLY way my daughter knows how to use it.

    Thanks for a fun post, Jo, especially for Grammar Nerds like me.

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    1. I use 'em all. Gotta keep the prose fun to read ;)

      Grammar IS getting lost on this generation. I beg my kids to bring me their papers before they submit them :) hehe My kids also know little to nothing about grammar; but it's cute to watch my 7year old try.

      Thanks for the comment, Tia!

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