Punctuation: The Semicolon: Love Child of the Comma and the Period

The Semicolon: Love Child of the Comma and the Period

People are irrationally frightened of semicolons. I can understand being terrified of your mother and Pee Wee Herman, but semicolons? Pleeeze. These little guys wouldn't hurt a flea, even if they fell on it.

  • Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses.
  • Example: Bigamy is one wife too many; monogamy is the same idea.
  • Use a semicolon between main clauses when the coordinating conjunction has been left out.
  • Example: She planned to dye her hair purple; however, the store was out of grape Jell-O so she decided to pierce her navel instead.
  • Use a semicolon to join independent clauses when one or both clauses contains a comma.
  • Example: After the sheep was cloned, the cows tried calling the tabloids; but they didn't get through.
  • Use a semicolon between main clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs such as however, nevertheless, moreover, for example, and consequently.
  • Example: Cloning sheep is a good idea; however, cloning ex-spouses, English teachers, or Freddy Kruger is not.
Take My Word for It

Place semicolons outside closing quotation marks. For example: We read ?Tell-Tale Heart?; we refuse to sleep alone again.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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