The semicolon is probably one of the most misunderstood punctuation marks but once you understand its use, you can appear smarter.
What is a Semicolon?
It is basically a hybrid between a colon and a comma. It has however been considered as one of the most egoistic punctuation marks simply because not many people know how to use it.
The semicolon is used to indicate a pause, usually between two main clauses, that needs to be more pronounced than the pause of a comma.
Why use a semicolon?
If two or more grammatically complete clauses exist, and both are not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.
What this means is that you can use a semicolon to separate two complete sentences that are related but not directly linked by a connecting word like “but” or “so.” For example: “He failed to show up to work today; he said she had a headache.”
Who uses semicolons?
The semicolon is commonly used by copy editors, professional writers, and everyone that is savvy enough. If words are the flesh and muscle of writing, then punctuation is the breath, and a good writer will make good use of it.
Why use a semicolon instead of a comma?
Independent sentences don’t go well with commas, unless they’re as terse as ‘He came, he saw, he conquered.’ For any other thing of greater length, a semicolon is simply better, as it joins the clauses together better than a comma or period that is too divisive.
Furthermore, it is also grammatically incorrect to link two complete sentences using a comma; a semicolon acknowledges that they’re two complete sentences, even if they are related.
How to use a semicolon
According to yourdictionary.com, “[The semicolon] shows a closer relationship between the clauses than a period would show.” Here’s an example: David was getting hungry; he suddenly regretted skipping breakfast.
How to use a semicolon in a list
In lists, we generally use commas to separate the items. For example, at the market, I’ll be picking up yogurt, vegetables, and tea. However, sometimes there are lists that contain commas, so it gets confusing unless you separate those items using semicolons.
For example, at the market, I’ll be picking up yogurt, which I know needs to be organic; vegetables, because they’re in season and on sale; and tea, so Daddy can actually lose that fat he has been complaining about.
Semicolons help to keep the items in the list neatly contained, so your meaning is always clear.