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The poor, misunderstood semicolon


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The use of the semicolon can be quite difficult to understand. Here is how the correct usage of the semicolon:

When you join independent clauses with an adverb, a semicolon should separate the two clauses and a comma should follow the conjunctive adverb (like in the final sentence of the previous paragraph). Ex. However, furthermore.

You also can use a semicolon to join two independent sentences (clauses) that are closely related.

I left the party early; I had a headache.

In this example, a comma isn't enough, but a period is not good either.

You can also use a semicolon to separate items in a series that already contain commas, such as in this example:

Please pick up some chicken, fish and game meat; apples, oranges, bananas; and some milk.

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Nice summary

A semi-colon can add to your writing if it is used properly

A semi-colon is to connect two connected ideas.  Otherwise, use a period

GOOD:  I know I shouldn't misuse semicolons;punctuation abuse is wrong.

BAD:  I don't like grammar police; Look a squirrel.

GOOD: I hope it doesn't rain;that would ruin my parade

BAD:  I'm going to the parade;I have school tomorrow.

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The use of the semicolon can be quite difficult to understand. Here is how the correct usage of the semicolon:

When you join independent clauses with an adverb, a semicolon should separate the two clauses and a comma should follow the conjunctive adverb (like in the final sentence of the previous paragraph). Ex. However, furthermore.

You also can use a semicolon to join two independent sentences (clauses) that are closely related.

I left the party early; I had a headache.

In this example, a comma isn't enough, but a period is not good either.

You can also use a semicolon to separate items in a series that already contain commas, such as in this example:

Please pick up some chicken, fish and game meat; apples, oranges, bananas; and some milk.

Semicolons help you connect closely related ideas when a style mark stronger than a comma is needed.  when semicolon is used effectively, semicolon spice up your writing and make your sentences sound more sophisticated. Semicolons are used to  form a bond between statements, typically when they are related to or in contrast with one another.

Examples: "A banana tree isn't a tree at all; its the world's largest herb."   

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Thank you so much for this! I never did understand the use of the semicolon before, to be honest. It was just one of those weird keys I never dared touch.  :tongueout: I hope I can practice using this soon!

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I have to admit that I sometimes wonder where to place a semicolon when I type a sentence on the computer. It get's even more confusing when the examples are not that specific or when the sentences used for the examples are not that applicable.

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I didn't know the last example was an acceptable form, I may start using that from now on. I usually just use semi-colons whenever my sentences are getting too long but still not long enough to warrant two separate sentences. I rarely use it for short sentences since I can just replace it with a word instead like if I were to say something similar to your first example, i'd just put it like so: "I went home early, because I had a headache."

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I didn't realize an adverb could be important to a semicolon's usage; I figured you just needed two closely related ideas that a comma couldn't quite link. I hope that's proper use of the punctuation as I feel I can be quite liberal with the semicolon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks Mr. L and Sarah.  I don't use semi-colon frequently but only because I really don't now when is the right time to use it.  I actually never used it in a sentence before only lists though I'm not even sure if I'm using it right on lists. =) 

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