Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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.


Ben Inkster said...

// Loop 10 times
for (x = 0; x < 10; x++) {
// Output glorious message
printf("I love twisted language jokes");
// Note the correct usage of a semicolon

Lindsay Inkster said...

Ah yes, my sweet, you speak the language of love. My heart is fluttering like a trapped bird; a small sparrow or perhaps a blue jay. Chickadees are nice too...

Lindsay Inkster said...

Computing usage

In computer programming, the semicolon is often used to separate multiple statements (for example, Pascal, SQL and perl). In other languages, semicolons are required after every statement (such as in PHP, Java, and the C family). Other languages, for example, some assembly languages and LISP dialects, may use semicolons to mark the beginning of comments. In computer systems, the semicolon is represented by Unicode and ASCII character 59 or 0x3B. The EBCDIC semicolon character is 95 or 0x5E.

The semicolon is often used to separate elements of a string of text. For example, multiple e-mail addresses in the "To" field in some e-mail clients have to be delimited by a semicolon.'ve gotta love Wikipedia

Ben Inkster said...

If C is the language of love what is latin?

Cogito; ergo sum

Do you use a semicolon before a latin adverb? Or is this an exception?


Ben Inkster said...

Je t'aime; parce que vous ĂȘtes la mienne.

Lindsay Inkster said...

Ummm ... did you just call me a cheese omelet?

Ben Inkster said...

Oh man!!!!

vous ĂȘtes ???

Babelfish makes me talk like an inebriated miscreant.

I meant "tu es". As in just you. Not all of your multiple personalities.

Lindsay Inkster said...

We thank you for your kind comments.