Do you feel silly about not knowing how to use the semicolon correctly? Does it create a furrow in your brow? There seems to be no other punctuation mark quite as fear-inducing or confounding. What is the semicolon exactly? What is its purpose? How does it differ from the colon or comma? Whether you are writing an essay or an email, or working your way through one of Kafka’s notoriously long sentences, there inevitably comes a time when the semicolon induces a head-scratch or a scrunched nose. This article will enable you to correct your punctuation by explaining when and how to use the semicolon correctly. Remember that learning how to punctuate correctly will make you a more articulate writer (and people don’t take you seriously when your grammar is inaccurate).
What is the semicolon?
Simply, the semicolon, is a hybrid of the colon, and the comma.
When to use the semicolon?
Understanding how to use the semicolon correctly is to know that there are two ways to do so:
1. When you want to construct complex lists
2. When you want to provide a necessary pause between two independent clauses that closely relate to each other
How to use the semicolon correctly?
Learn from the following examples:
1. When constructing a complex list (or lists within a list), use the semicolon as follows:
Example (a): I have published my writing in Jiggered Magazine, Mahala, and Prufrock in South Africa; Room Magazine, The Fiddlehead, and Arc Poetry Magazine in Canada; and The Culture Muncher, Zen Kimchi, and WritingPoints.
Example (b): I am a freelance editor of varying writing styles including fantasy, science fiction, and teen fiction; phenomenological, feminist, and poststructural philosophy; and travel writing, blogging, and language training copy online.
2. When adding a pause between two sentences that can stand alone as grammatically correct and that closely relate to each other, use the semicolon as follows:
Example (a): I write poetry about trees and dreams; it helps me to practice my writing skills and ensures that I exercise my creative imagination.
Example (b): I recommend that you read literature by writers who often use semicolons; learning by example is one of the best ways to correct your punctuation.
No longer may the fear of semicolons strike your writing heart. Now that you know what a semicolon is, and when and how to use it, you no longer need to feel silly when your study buddy shyly asks “what is a semicolon?” When asked about how to use a semicolon correctly, you’ll be able to answer with authority. By reading this article, you have helped yourself to correct your punctuation, thus enabling you with the grammatical ability to slay future semicolon conundrums.