Writing Tips: How To Use Semicolons
To be honest, most of what I remember about grammar class is being confused, trying to learn what all the big terminology meant, and spelling the word grammar wrong so many times I finally learned how to spell it by the end of high school. Yup, I used to spell it grammer [sic]. None of you spell it like that (never!)
Well, our topic today is semicolons. Semicolons are virtually an endangered species (in the world of grammar, of course.) They've gotten a bad rap, and I'm not sure why, but it might have to do with the silly way grammar is taught. I personally don't remember learning them in school at all. I did, however, learn a bunch of words that are semi-useless. Fair trade!
For whatever reason, semicolons are often misunderstood, chastised, and even feared! They may appear to be evil, dripping-toothed monsters, but really they're cute and cuddly. Well, maybe not cute, but definitely cuddly. Well, maybe not cuddly in your sense of the word, but definitely useful! By the end of this hub, we'll agree on that. Let's go!
The word semicolon used to have a hyphen (-) between the words semi and colon, though now semicolons are so commonplace we combine the two words into one. Either way is correct, though adding a hyphen is, well, more work. I'm a lover of hyphens, but honestly, "semicolon" looks better bare.
Words that come after semicolons are not capitalized unless they're proper nouns (names of people, places, or things.) There are no spaces before the semicolon, and just one space after.
- I'm so excited; it's another grammar lesson. *Woot!*
- I'm reading a hub on semicolons; I'll soon be Master Chief!
- I'm so excited ; It's another grammar lesson. *Crickets*
- I'm reading a hub on semicolons ;This is going to be useful.
Semicolons go outside parentheses and quotation marks when they come at the end of the parentheses or quote. Yes, it looks ugly after the quotation marks, but that's the way it is!
- Kate thinks grammar "is fun"; however, some people think she's crazy.
- She didn't always find grammar easy (parts of it are difficult); but her love of the English language kept her going.
- Kate "likes using semicolons;" however, this sentence makes her cringe.
- She loves to read (it's important to writing;) however, it's hard to read this sentence.
Semicolons are used to separate items in a list where other punctuation is present.
- Semicolons are semi-popular in these famous cities: Paris, France; London, England; and New York, USA.
- Kate has multiple interests: Grammar, which you already know about; rock wall climbing, which is harder than it sounds; and reading, which is actually really important to writing.
Between Related Simple Sentences ("Independent Clauses")
Semicolons are used to separate two simple sentences that are related to one another. This is where people start freaking out, but hang in there; you'll get it!
- It's the end of the world as we know it; I feel fine.
- I used to spell "grammar" wrong; now I spell it correctly.
- I told you this would be easy; look how well you're doing!
If you're having trouble with it, rearrange the way you think about it. Come up with two complete simple sentences that are related to one another. By related, I mean they both work together to form an entire picture. Write them like this:
- This is one simple sentence.
- It's followed by a second simple sentence.
Now combine them together. Instead of putting a period after the first sentence, put a semicolon! Don't forget to follow the rules.
- This is one simple sentence; it's followed by a second simple sentence.
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Simple Sentences Linked By Transitional Words
Like we just learned above, two simple sentences that are related to one another can be linked by using a semicolon. Similarly, two related sentences can be linked where there are transitional words.
Some transitional words:
- Of course
- In summary
- Everyone thinks using semicolons is hard; of course, it's actually easy.
- You thought this would take you forever; in fact, it's gone really quickly.
- You've now learned all about semicolons; hence, this lesson is over!
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