Is it a Colon? Is it a Comma? No, it’s a Semicolon!
Do you feel inclined to join two independent clauses with – GASP – a comma?
Stop the presses! This isn’t a job for a comma; this is a job for the semicolon.
The Villainous Comma Splice
In case you’re not familiar with the comma splice, here’s the lowdown on this common error. A comma splice occurs when an author joins two complete sentences. For example:
The Comma Splice was last seen fleeing the crime scene, Super Semicolon was hot in pursuit. (Wrong)
A semicolon can be deployed to save the sentence:
The Comma Splice was last seen fleeing the crime scene; Super Semicolon was hot in pursuit. (Correct)
You may be thinking: “Why not just use a period?” When periods and commas can usually handle the job, the semicolon is overlooked. However, the semicolon can add a little style and clarity as well as offer a greater advantage when conveying balance or contrast.
Discover how you can use the semicolon with these tips!
Separate Independent Clauses
Semicolons are used to separate two independent clauses when a period is too strong.
Sit down. I’ll make the coffee.
This command appears very serious and implies conflict.
Sit down; I’ll make the coffee.
This command is softened and implies generosity, i.e. “Don’t trouble yourself; I’ve got this.”
Semicolons can spice up conjunctive adverbs (e.g. accordingly, consequently, however, etc.) when used transitionally between clauses of a compound sentence.
We all agree the Comma Splice should be banned; however, we don’t have the funds to eradicate it.
Semicolons should occur outside quotation marks and parentheses.
She sardonically called him “The Graceful Trapeze Artist”; he never could stay on his feet.
Semicolons can also step in to help clarify a series when it’s too intense for commas. More specifically, semicolons separate elements of a series when the items of the series are longer or set off by commas. Semicolons shouldn’t be used in the presence of a coordinating conjunction (e.g. and, but, for, etc.) unless there is extensive punctuation required in one or more individual clauses.
Attending the Tattoo Convention were ten tenacious bikers from South Dakota; eight pretentious hipsters from Seattle; three barbershop quartet singers singing “I get a kick from champagne”; six males and four females going through a mid-life-crisis; and seven blond bombshells with tattoos on their lower backs.
The contestants of the sauerkraut-eating championship came from Munich, Germany; Germantown, Wisconsin; Warsaw, Poland; Cairo, Egypt; and Tijuana, Mexico.
Use these semicolon tips to strengthen your writing skills, as well as maintain your credibility as an Expert Author. We will have more punctuation howlers coming up in the next few weeks, so stop by the Blog for the latest and greatest tips to error-free articles.
Did you miss our last edition of Top Punctuation Howlers? Find out more about the colon here!