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Writing 101: To Semi-Colon or not to Semi-Colon? That is the Question.

Updated on December 10, 2014

Responding to a Request

There are times when I’ll receive a question from a follower that requires an answer too long for the Mailbag series. This is one of those times. Jen recently made the following request:

“Especially in longer sentences with multiple fragments and layers. I am certain that I often misuse them. Maybe your ex-teacher skills could write a hub and help this girl out. I have searched the internet and many of the grammar handbooks, and no one has presented it in a way that makes sense.”

Semi-colons are a mystery to many writers. If it weren’t for eight years in Catholic grade school, tutored daily by humorless nuns, I wouldn’t have a clue what a semi-colon is or how it is used; however, I was taught by those nuns, and they did not tolerate lazy grammar, so I’m here now to pass on what I know. Rest assured that if you get this lesson wrong, I won’t hit you on the knuckles with a ruler, which is how we were corrected way back in the 50s.

Shall we begin with our lesson on semi-colons?

The birthplace of many semi-colons
The birthplace of many semi-colons | Source

What Is a Semicolon?

Simply look at a semicolon and you’ll receive a clue regarding its purpose. It is halfway between a period and a comma or, if you prefer, it is a punctuation mark that combines some of the elements of both a period and a comma.

The purpose of a semicolon is to connect closely related ideas when you need something stronger than a comma, but you don’t want to end the sentence.

Still confused? Well of course you are, and who can blame you? Let’s move on and discuss the times you should use a semicolon, and I’ll even toss in some examples for free.

When to Use a Semicolon

There are basically four times you should choose to use a semicolon:

  • To link two independent clauses to connect closely related ideas. For example…..Some people steer their car using their right hand; others guide a vehicle using their left hand.
  • To link clauses that are connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases in order to connect close related ideas. An example of this would be…….No matter how they choose to steer their car, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear their way is the best way.
  • To link lists where the items contain commas, thus avoiding confusion between list items. An example of this would be…….There are basically three ways to steer a car: using the left hand, which is preferred by left-handed people; using the right hand, which is preferred by right-handed people; or using both hands, which is preferred by the National Insurance Institute.
  • To link lengthy clauses, or clauses that contain commas, to avoid confusion. An example of this would be…..Some people steer a car with their left hand, mainly because they are left-handed; others, for a variety of reasons, will steer with their right hand.

Are you still confused, or are you beginning to see the light?

Let’s keep going and see if we can’t provide illumination for all concerned.

Situations That Call for Semicolons and Not Commas

One of the most common grammatical errors that writers make is using a comma where a semicolon should be, or a semicolon where a comma should be. Let me give you some examples that should clarify matters.

My hair is brown, it is also gray.

My hair is brown; it is also gray.

Which of those two is correct?

The second option was the correct one. Yes, there are two independent clauses in that sentence, but a comma cannot be used because there is no coordinating conjunction to join the clauses. This common error is called a comma splice. Avoid it! You could use a comma if you added a coordinating conjunction, as in…..My hair is brown, and it is also gray.

Let’s try another example.

I like gray hair, however, I hate that it makes me look older.

I like gray hair; however, I hate that it makes me look older.

Which is correct?

Ask yourself if we have a coordinating conjunction. If not, we need a semicolon. The second choice is correct. We could have used commas if the sentence read like this…..I like gray hair, but I hate that it makes me look older.

Is it clear yet?

Moving on to the next example…..

I like gray hair: it makes me look distinguished, which is a great thing, it makes me look wise, which is a very good thing, and it makes my complexion look more robust, which is better than looking pale.

I like gray hair: it makes me look distinguished, which is a great thing; it makes me look wise, which is a very good thing; and it makes my complexion look more robust, which is better than looking pale.

Which one is correct? Obviously the second choice…or maybe it’s not so obvious. The semicolon, in this case, is used to clearly separate the three choices in order to avoid confusion.

Is the fog lifting yet? Are we getting closer to an understanding?

We’ll do one more little quiz and then move on.

Gray hair, although frowned upon by many over the years, is still a symbol of maturity and wisdom, dashing, yet understated, it may add years to a man’s appearance, but also a regal quality.

Gray hair, although frowned upon by many over the years, is still a symbol of maturity and wisdom; dashing, yet understated, it may add years to a man’s appearance, but also a regal quality.

Obviously, the second choice is correct because, hey, it’s always the second choice. In this example, it is difficult to tell where the first independent clause ends, and the next one begins, when commas are used.

You will only find five semi-colons in this 130,000 word novel, thanks to my editor
You will only find five semi-colons in this 130,000 word novel, thanks to my editor | Source

Did you find this lesson helpful?

See results

Semicolons in Fiction

I am a fiction writer. I mention that only because I am infinitely more focused on the story than I am grammar, a point my editor pointed out as she was reading my last book, Resurrecting Tobias. One of her first comments to me was that I love semicolons, and that I used them, in that book, a bit too much.

In fact, she went on to say that agents, and publishers, frown on the use of semicolons in fiction. That was news to me, so I started paying attention to novels I read, and I did research online, and it turns out she was right. How could I have ever doubted her?

Agents and publishers do frown on the use of semicolons in fiction. They would much prefer that writers use commas and periods instead of writing long sentences with multiple independent clauses joined by semicolons. It has to do with rhythm and flow, the thinking being that long sentences have a tendency to slow the action down to a crawl.

I understand that and, for the most part, agree with it. My writing today has very few semicolons in it, and I don’t feel like the quality has been hurt at all.

Having said that, the final decision is the writer’s to make. Use semicolons, don’t use semicolons, whatever, but use them correctly when you do and stay true to your style and voice. At the end of the day, your name is attached to the article, short story, or novel, and you have to feel good about the final product.

If you have a question about grammar or writing, pass it along in the comment section below.
If you have a question about grammar or writing, pass it along in the comment section below. | Source

I Think That About Covers It

Jen, thanks for the question. I hope I’ve cleared the muddy waters for all of you. If not, ask for clarification in the comment section below and I’ll try my best to respond intelligently.

Have fun! Have fun with your commas and your periods, your semicolons and your colons. That’s what writing should be….fun!

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 2 years ago from New York, New York

      So pinning this, as I am sure I misuse myself at times and I was taught proper grammar in Catholic School by nuns, but still this one does confuse me still from time-to-time. So huge thank you Bill! Have a wonderful day ahead now, as always :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, it seems to be one of the hardest rules to learn, and I'm not sure why. I know I still make mistakes with it from time to time. I'm glad if this helped you. Thank you and Happy Wednesday my friend.

    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 years ago from Orange County California

      billybuc

      Great hub.

      After failing the first example, AND looking at the rest of them, I would use a conjunction instead of a semicolon.

      It seems to be more understandable, and logical to use the conjunction rather than a semicolon.

      Is it cleaner and clearer to say. For example: My hair is black, and peppered with strands of gray?

      Now, I will have to go back to my hubs and evaluate my punctuation.

      I may have been free with commas, when the correct punctuation should have been a semicolon.

      Call it conversational English.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I'm so glad you said, 'Use them correctly.'!

      I know I use semi-colons a lot and I try to keep a check on them. I totally agree about using them sparingly in fiction. Short sharp sentences amongst longer ones are so often the best. Semi-colons are more for written discussion, I feel, though descriptions need them from time to time.

      These little things are so often dismissed as trivial but for me they are the building blocks of the language and as such are vital to writing.

      It might be an American thing but I was always taught never to put a comma before conjunctions. There must be exceptions, as with everything, but (see, there's one to isolate a qualifier!) it seems superfluous to me. What do you think?

      Great question from Jen and well done, bill!

      Happy Wednesday to you and yours!

      Ann

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Serendipity. My kids and I were discussing this earlier this afternoon. After reading this, I think we've got it sorted out. Thanks for the hub.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

      I also had the benefit of Catholic school education, where perfection is expected when learning The Three R's. However, I was unaware that the semicolon is frowned upon in fiction. That's good to know; I'll be paying close attention to sentence structure. Often, breaking a long sentence into two is just as, if not more, effective.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brad, your example was correct, and I happen to agree with you....I prefer conversational English, and a conjunction is the easy way out that just makes good sense.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's interesting, Ann, because we were never taught that about commas and conjunctions, or if we were, I slept through that lesson. I'll have to check on it, but I tend to agree with you about it being superfluous....and what a great word "superfluous" is. :)

      Happy Wednesday to you my Grammar Queen!

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow, Zulma! Really? How strange is that? Don't ever let it be said that you and your kids have boring conversations. LOL I'm kidding of course. Thanks for being here and I'm glad I could shed some light on this topic.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It really is as effective, Sha. In the end, it all comes down to rhythm and flow, and what works best for what you are trying to say.

      Thanks for sharing and being here.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 2 years ago from United Kingdom

      Bill, this is one of the saner conversations I've had with my kids. lol

    • Cheeky Kid profile image

      Cheeky Kid 2 years ago from Milky Way

      Thank you so much for this. I found it really useful. Will use semi-colons more from now on.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Zulma, I'd love to be there to hear some of those conversations.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cheeky Kid, glad this was helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      dragonflycolor 2 years ago

      Semi-colons I use sparingly, but I try to use appropriately. Adverbs on the other hand; I use superfluously. Thanks, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mari, I now try to severely limit my use of semi-colons. In truth, there really is no reason for a fiction writer to use them. As for adverbs, keep on keeping on, my friend, and thanks for the visit and the chuckle.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 2 years ago

      Good info, my friend.

      DJ.

    • Sandra Eastman profile image

      Sandra Joy Eastman 2 years ago from Robbinsdale MN

      Bill I enjoyed the hub and it was spot on. Thank you

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am totally confused.

      Here I thought we were going to get suggestions on how to clean our colon. I figured semi-colon was just a partial cleanse. And then this whole thing about being in a coma and periods really threw me off.

      Oh well back to the nunns.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, DJ! Boring, but good info. :)

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Sandra. Not the most exciting article ever written, but necessary for any writer.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Eric, I suspect you aren't quite as confused as you let on. LOL I'm laughing out loud by myself right now. Thanks, buddy.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Oooh, I like 'grammar queen'! Wish I was!

      I think there were lots of little extras that our last primary year English teacher taught us! Like your nuns, he was known to rap a few knuckles but only the boys', thank goodness.

      Ann

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, the girls always got a break. Now that I think about it, I don't remember ever seeing a girl get her knuckles rapped. Thank goodness we boys were able to take up the slack. :)

      bill

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Another great hub on a topic that was never explained this clearly in grade school. Perhaps the problem is that my instruction came from Lutheran spinsters rather than Catholic nuns.

    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Kay Badder 2 years ago from USA

      I think I am making two sentences out of something that should use semi-colons. My teachers were so into diagrams that they never taught me rules like this. Thank you Bill for the advice.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 years ago

      My advice is to avoid semicolons when possible. They used to be used a lot in old-style writing, but the trend nowadays is to avoid them by either shortening the sentence into two sentences. I agree with Bradmaster that I would prefer conjunctions in the examples. My reason is that it is kind of Victorian or early 20th Century to use the semicolons.

      In my job as a legal editor, we allow semicolons in only two situations in the law books, well, three if you count occasional used in formatting like catch lines. In the vernacular, catch lines are headers and sub-headers to introduce new sections. Anyway, we use them in confusing series where the use of commas won’t adequately separate the items (Your rule no. 3) and in the formatting of long thoughts that should not be broken into sentences. Here’s an example:

      (a) All acts, codes, and statutes, and all parts … are repealed unless:

      (1) Expressly continued … Code;

      (2) Omitted improperly or erroneously … this Code; or

      (3) Omitted, changed, or modified by … or modification.

      Please note how the thought continues through subdivision (3). This could have been written in one paragraph, but it would have been long and bulky, so it was broken up and the semicolons continue the thought into the next subdivision. Also note my use of ellipses to truncate the clauses so I won't be plagiarizing the material. I point this out because many people don’t know what they are, or at best, how to use them. I trained one proofreader who thought an ellipse used one dot per word omitted. Anyway, good hub on a confusing subject, my man. I salute you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Linda, that may have been the problem. My solution is to not use them. Then I don't have to worry about the rules.

      Thanks my friend. Enjoy the windy day we're having.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Barbara Kay, you are very welcome. Oh, how I hated diagramming. :) Thank you and good luck.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, thanks for the clarification and explanation. Honestly, I have chosen now to just not use them. It makes life so much easier for me. Besides, as a writer, I find semi-colons have a tendency to ruin the flow of my work, and that just will not do.

      bill

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Bill. I really found this hub helpful. I read it a couple of times and it got through. Thanks for an interesting lesson.

      Graham.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Thanks for lesson in grammar. We never really learned how to use semi-colons in school. Or perhaps we did and I just didn't get it. I do now!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Graham. Not the most interesting lesson every written, but hopefully useful. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, honestly, I think one of the reasons many people don't understand semi-colons is because they were taught early on and let's face it, they are boring. I think we learn grammar on a different level when we got older and are more receptive. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I have a feeling that I missed a couple of simi colons on the Christmas piece I wrote yesterday. Your example's were good and I could see more clearly how to use them. Thank you Bill...

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are welcome, Ruby. If you missed a couple I didn't take notice, so it must not have been a glaring mistake.

      Thanks as always my loyal friend.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      You knew that title would catch my eye, didn't you, Bill? Your explanation and examples are very effective and should prove helpful to Jen and any readers who aren't certain how to accurately use the semi-colon.

      Voted Up++ and shared. Have a great day!

      Jaye

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      That about explains it; thanks.

      In olden times, in the days of leisure reading, semicolons were found in fiction. This extract is from the first paragraph of MOBY DICK by Melville: "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship."

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I've looked up the 'comma before conjunctions' thing and apparently it is, as I thought, a UK v US issue. So there we are. We're both right so that's perfect, isn't it?!

      Ann :)

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 years ago from Northern California, USA

      I just wrote a blog post on my author page about the semi colon. I like the way you explain it. Would you mind if I linked your hub for further reading?

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

      Instructional and well written hub Bill. Thanks. Jamie

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jaye, I wrote this with you in mind. LOL You know that, of course, and I'll never forget your gentle lesson. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Brian, Melville managed to do all that and still be popular. How in the world???? LOL Thanks, my friend, for a touch of sanity.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I can't imagine a more perfect situation. Thanks for the research and affirmation....or is that confirmation?

      bill

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      ALL of your lessons are clear, concise and extremely helpful......You could have been a superb teacher....Oh......wait. I always learn something important and useful......but speaking of....I never found a damned thing important or useful about a SEMI-COLON, so I just ignore it. Same thing I do with people I don't like.....

      OH! and speaking of them......there is an ENTIRE colon, including the A$$.....handing out ignorant remarks over in Pop's neighborhood. See you later at the Inn.......(I know some people who hang out back)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Jamie. I'm on my way to read your self-interview. See you in a few.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      I was always getting corrected for run on sentences because I have a tendency to run on. Semi-colon or comma didn't matter much then but of course does now. As I try to write "correctly".

      So, like my dear friend Paula I think the best thing to do is ignore semi-colons and just stay away from them!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Either would do I believe! :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, I avoid them like the plague now. It's just much easier to pretend they don't exist, and just writer shorter sentences. As for Pop's neighborhood, it is what it is. I've never heard of that clown, but evidently he knows enough about me to toss out an opinion. When he learns to spell I might take him seriously. :) Thanks, Sis!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, that's the approach I take. Semi-colons no longer exist in my toolbox. LOL Thank you as always my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Perfect, Ann! :)

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      When I was in sixth grade I was in sixth grade I went to a private school. I was, er, well, not a great student. I was far too interested in reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels to do boring homework.

      My first level punishment was to write 100 of the following sentences:

      I am in training to be an adult; therefore, I will conduct myself in an adult manner.

      The second round of punishment was...well...now I'm off topic. Obviously I didn't learn the intended lesson from the first level.

      What stuck with me from level one was not the lesson but the sentence structure and the use of the semicolon in conjunction with the word "therefore".

      I was born free, and I was born to be a writer!

      And that, my friend, is a true story!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      And that, my friend, is a fun story! From tiny acorns a mighty oak grew. Not that I think you are an acorn, or for that matter a tree, but, well, you get the point. :) Thanks for sharing!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, yep...hands up, I was reviewing and updating some old hubs recently, and yes, I did go a little over the top with those semi-colons; however, I think I have now outgrown the habit. Last one just for you.;)

      Interesting and very useful article. Voting up all the way and bookmarking. The printer is out of ink. Hope all is well with you, my best as always.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo, I am so guilty of this, but I've learned my lesson. Thanks for saving your last semi-colon for me. It is greatly appreciated. :) Have a superb remainder of the week, and thank you.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bill. I'm sure I slept through this class years ago. Thankfully I have you to set me straight. Thanks for the lesson. Have a great week.

    • RachaelOhalloran profile image

      Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

      Geez, is there a support group for this? I admit it. I am an overuser of semi-colons. I often edit them down (not out) and still end up with at least 4 in any one article.

      I also had 12 years of Catholic education and the main English lessons I remember are: a period is a full stop and a comma is a pause. So I reason it out that a semi-colon is a breath before continuing to the end of my sentence. I like them. They look dignified. lol

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Good work Billybuc. The naughty Grammarian approves. voting up and useful.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very intelligent article; awesome presentation with good examples. I was also having much problem with commas and semicolons; it's so crystal clear now. Thanks for sharing your great grammar with us.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Nice explanation and a reminder of the grammar lessons.

      Thanks for sharing this useful hub!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Bill, I think a lot of us slept through that class. Good to know I was in good company. :) Thanks, buddy, and Happy Thursday to you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Rachael, your first line is a classic. A support group. LOL Thanks for a great laugh this Thursday morning.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Catherine! It's always nice when those who know agree with me. I appreciate it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad to hear that, Venkatachari M. I would imagine that semi-colons are confusing to someone for whom English is a second language, which I assume you are. I think you write very well, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, ChitrangadaSharan. I appreciate you being here.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Bill, I too, use the semi-colon. It is often overlooked, as is what my father used to call, “the gentlemanly dash and …” Instead, a sea of commas are inserted. But after reading this excellent article, I must now go back and make sure I use mine properly. Thank you, my friend, for keeping us informed, wonderfully encouraged, and helping us “to spread our wings.” What we do without you?

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Genna, I hope you don't have to answer that last question for a very long time. LOL Thank you! I've decided it's just easier and better for my flow if I don't use them in creative writing. In other words, I'm taking the easy way out. :)

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Lol, Bill. Thank you. But you do use the dash, the parenthesis, etc., expertly, which isn't easy to do. So I'm not going to let you off the hook. :-)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL....thanks, Genna. I tend to fall in love with a particular tool. Dashes are my current favorites. We'll see what I turn to in 2015. :)

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for the grammar writing tips, Bill!

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

      Semicolons are as little used by writers as marketing; both concepts require practice, persistence and patience to master. :) Cheers!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, vkwok! I hope you do better with semi-colons than I do. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, that is the quintessential Heidi comment. :) Thank you!

    • Availiasvision profile image

      Jennifer Arnett 2 years ago from California

      Bill, thank you for taking the time to write an entire Hub on this grammar issue. I know I found it really helpful; from the comments it was also useful to other writers. Was that proper? Or, could the above clauses be two different sentences. Wax on, wax off. This grasshopper is working on it.

      I found your breakdown of the four difference instances you use a semi-colon to be very useful. I also found your ending idea to be very interesting. I have always been hesitant to use semi-colons in fiction and never really knew why.

      My favorite grammatical tool is the em-dash, it gives a nice break between ideas or thoughts; it's very helpful for dialogue. How was that, teach? C-, maybe a B+??? I love how it has become socially acceptable to break the rules; however, I do have a tremendous respect for the writers who were given proper grammar education, even if that involved a few hand slaps.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I have always enjoyed punctuation and its rules. Yep, I am odd. You provide a lovely explanation. It has taken me three views to leave this freaking comment. Pesky technical stuff. Great hub, Bill.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      thank you for the lesson Dr. Semi-Colon.. wasn't confused before but now I am...LOL kidding you hit dead on

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jen, I'm very glad you found this useful, so we all win with this lesson. As for the em-dash, I think it is very useful. I'm fond of....... to use as a break....same purpose as the em-dash.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Flourish, not odd at all. I think punctuation is important. We've bastardized everything else in society. It would be nice if we left something the way it's always been.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Frank....LOL....I don't blame you if you are confused. You probably have the same dazed look I always had in English class. Thanks, buddy.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      The semi-colon is an endangered species, Bill. Except for maybe once or twice in informative writing to separate complicated series like Buffalo, Ohio; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin, it serves no literary purpose. RIP, little semi, we barely knew you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Too funny, Marie. I like your sense of humor. RIP indeed!

      Thank you and Happy Weekend to you.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Dear Bill,

      What a good refresher course this is and now I have another question to clarify on the correct usage of "who & whom".

      You know on FB page when you post a picture, you have this option of tagging people. In the side note, it asks you: "Who were you with?". I was discussing this with my daughter and I told her FB is wrong. It should be, "whom" (object) not "who" (subject) as far as I know. Because, if I'm going to correctly answer FB's question, my reply should be, "I was with billybuc or I was with him." Mind you, English is my second language but I excel in this subject. :) So, think I am right but then again, I may be wrong.

      Please help this writer spread her wings and fly and draw the attention of Mark Zuckerberg, if I am correct. Lol! Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cris, I'm as hazy on whom and who as most people, but if I remember my grammar lessons correctly, then you are right...it should be "whom."

      As always, it's nice when you visit. Thank you and Happy Weekend to you.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 years ago

      I have to print this one, billy. I suck at this stuff!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Breakfastpop, you crack me up. Just skip the semi-colons, use periods, and you are good to go. Thanks for the laugh.

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Thanks for clarifying that Bill. I bet my daughter a donut and won! :) Also, I was kidding when I say, I excel in English; didn't mean to be that conceited. Just good enough, I'd say!

      There, I used your semi-colon.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Cris, congrats on that won donut, and no way would I ever consider you conceited. :) Thank you my friend, and hugs from Olympia are coming your way.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for a very clear lesson on the semi-colon. Very helpful!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Dora. Thank you for visiting this Sunday.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 2 years ago

      Well I have to beef up on my grammar now. I don't use a semi-colon very often, but after reading your examples I probably should be in certain instances. Uh oh! Very useful hub Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Glimmer! I think we all could use a refresher course in grammar from time to time.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      A wonderful lesson Bill. Though I use the semi colon sparingly, I feel I could use it a bit more.

      Thanks for this refresher.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rajan! It's always nice seeing you here.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      Good to see the teacher come out here in the article. You refreshed my memory on the proper usage of the semi-colon (I'm sure I have made mistakes on this in writing.).

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, I know for a fact I've made mistakes using them. That's why I figured a refresher would help all of us. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your vacation. Merry Christmas!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You taught me a couple of things here!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Well, Deb, then my work is done. :) Thank you my friend.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 22 months ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      A semicolon is often a mystery to me, Bill. I have now read two hubs about it and decided I don't like them. I took an online grammar course, which was very difficult. I missed one question, or I would have a completed grammar course. My English teachers must not have covered some elements of grammar. Anyway, thank you for the very clear article about semicolons. Sharing, Blessings, Audrey

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Audrey, truthfully, I no longer use them. They are just confusing enough to keep me from bothering...and agents and publishers don't really like them in fiction anyway. :) Thanks for sharing your story about the grammar course, and blessings always.

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