The semi-colon is a mark of intelligence, as the average person simply has no idea how to correctly use one. Impress your friends, family, and teachers by mastering its applications.
Also, improve your SAT score, as semi-colons appear with regularity in the writing section of the exam.
USING SEMI-COLONS AS JOINERS
In the simplest sense, think of a semi-colon as glue. By itself, it can join two related sentences together.
- You should apply for that job; you have the qualifications, and you are not happy in your present job.
- Bruggs ate toasted walnuts; he got sick.
- Jill ate bleached English walnuts; Mary ate acorns.
- Bruggs ate toasted walnuts; he got sick; he died after three weeks of severe stomach cramps.
Sometimes the semi-colon works by itself; however, on other occasions, the writer must indicate the relationship between the two sentences. Consider the following examples, all of which contain transitional words showing the connection between the two sentences:
- Surpitude liked to eat toasted, disease-free black walnuts; however, they always made her sick.
- Brunswik always got sick when she ate any walnuts; consequently, she ate no nuts of any kind without bleaching them first in Clorox.
- I had no intention of attending the wedding; nevertheless, I did send a card and a gift.
- The Chinese government will not permit the sale of a giant panda; however, sometimes one will be lent to another country as a goodwill gesture.
- You have not completed all of the courses required up to this point; therefore, you will have to take summer classes if you hope to graduate with your classmates next May.
The words between the two sentences are called conjunctive adverbs. These words show how the two sentences are related; however, the words are not part of either sentence. As a result, they must be separated from both sentences. The semi-colon in front, followed by a comma afterwards, completes this separation. Be sure to punctuate such sentences correctly!
Here follows an incomplete list of conjunctive adverbs that may be used to join two sentences with a semi-colon:
at one moment...at the next
for one thing ...for another (thing)
Concession or contrast:
on (the) one hand...on the other hand
on the contrary
exactly the opposite
as a result
otherwise (= if not)
USING SEMI-COLONS AS SEPARATORS
Semi-Colons may serve as a "Super-Comma!" When you have a series of three or more items that normally would be separated by commas except that each individual item already has a comma in it, you use the semicolon between items. This reduces the number of commas, which may otherwise result in confusion.
In the following examples, semi-colons take the place of some commas in order for the reader to more clearly see the separation of elements:
- We visited Pago Pago, Western Samoa; Curitiba, Brazil; and St. George, Utah.
- The trio's birthdays are November 10, 1946; December 7, 1947; and October 31, 1950.
- Her favorite players are Steve Young, a quarterback; Jason Buck, a defensive end; and Ty Detmer, another quarterback.
As in the examples above, citing places, dates, and people's names with descriptions, are three very common situations where you'll see the super-comma usage.
Here are different types of examples in which a semi-colon is used in place of a comma. These examples involve long, compound-complex sentences filled with commas. A semi-colon is used to clarify the end of one sentence and the beginning of another. (Normally, in these situations, commas would be used--but there are way too many of them!)
- Ishmael, the narrator in Moby-Dick goes to sea, he says, "whenever it is a damp, drizzly November" in his heart and soul; but Ahab, the captain of the ship, goes to sea because of his obsession to hunt and kill the great white whale, Moby Dick.
- By the end of the sessions, the participants will have learned how to handle excessive amounts of paperwork, to work under pressure, and to juggle deadlines; and, if they complete all requirements, they will have a valuable addition to their resumes.