Friday, July 8, 2016

The Semicolon

semicolon   ;

   "A period and a comma together; how confusing is that?"
   "Why would I need to use something that can't make up its mind what it wants to be?"
   Last week we covered the use of the colon. This week we're going to cover the use of the semicolon. But before I go on with the details, I just want to warn you--DON'T OVERUSE IT once you realize how cool it is. 
   Again, I'll quote The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th edition: "In regular prose, a semicolon is most commonly used between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction to signal a closer connection between them than a period would." In other words, if you write two sentences that have a very close relationship, a semicolon between them may serve you better to make your point than if you simply separate the sentences with a period. Take a look at these examples:
   She swam toward the starfish; they seemed so peaceful and inviting.
   He loved the feeling of the wind in his hair when he drove the open road; a sedan would no             longer suffice.
   Though a gifted writer, Miqueas has never bothered to master the semicolon; he insists that           half a colon is no colon at all. 
   Certain adverbs--however, thus, hence, indeed, accordingly, besides, therefore, and sometimes then--when used to join two independent clauses, need to be preceded by a semicolon rather than a comma. A comma usually follows the adverb. 
   Waylon didn't much care for Jobe's attitude; however, he couldn't argue with Jobe's logic.
   Bernie had never learned to swim; accordingly, he made sure he wore a life jacket when his buddy took him fishing.
   When items in a series contain a lot of internal punctuation, separating the items with semicolons can aid in the clarity. 
   The origins of her ancestry were reported in the following percentages: Native American, 38; Scandinavian, 34; Russian, 19; Chinese, 6; Other, 3.
   Semicolons are also used in other, less popular ways. They can appear before expressions such as that is, for example, or namely when they introduce an independent clause.
   As usual, Garrett managed to change the subject; that is, he went off on a tangent.
   Semicolons can also be used in index entries, parenthetical text citations, and with a second subtitle of a work, but those are special uses that don't come up in everyday text writing.
   So do some self-editing of your most recent work with an eye for those closely related sentences and decide if a semicolon would be better than a period or a conjunction. 

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