The Humble Semi-Colon
In continuing with the theme of life-long learning...
I have another educational goal to share. This year I would like to improve my grammar. In particular, I want to learn to use semi-colons properly.
It's a lofty goal, I know; but until now I hadn't figured out what semi-colons were for. I found them somewhat intimidating, to tell the truth.
A quick Wikipedia search reveals the following helpful information:
In English, the semicolon has two main purposes:
1. It binds two sentences more closely than they would be if separated by a full stop/period. It often replaces a conjunction such as and or but. Writers might consider this appropriate where they are trying to indicate a close relationship between two sentences, or a 'run-on' in meaning from one to the next; they do not want the connection to be broken by the abrupt use of a full stop.
2. It is used as a stronger division than a comma, or a "super comma" to make meaning clear in a sentence where commas are already being used for other purposes. A common example of this use is to separate the items of a list when some of the items themselves contain commas.
There are several rules that govern semicolon placement:
1. Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses not joined by a coordinating conjunction: "I went to the pool; it was closed."
2. Use a semicolon between independent clauses linked with a transitional phrase or conjunctive adverb: "I like to ride horses; however, they don't like to be ridden by me."
3. Use a semicolon between items in a series containing internal punctuation: "There are several Waffle Houses in Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; Pensacola, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama."
I suppose semi-colons aren't so intimidating after all. They are really quite useful. Hooray for grammar.