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March 14, 2012 - Using Part of Your Colon (Semicolon Use)

The semicolon could possibly be the most misused and misunderstood punctuation mark in writing. Many writers use it because it looks impressive. Likewise, most readers don't understand it either, so writers have a fairly good chance of getting away with incorrectly utilizing this punctuation mark.

But stop the madness! This punctuation mark is actually very easy to understand!

Follow these simple rules for semicolon use:

1. Use semicolons to separate independent clauses that are closely related in meaning but not joined by a coordinating conjunction.

I was listening to the radio last night; I love hearing James Taylor as I fall asleep.
The Everglades are a great place for visitors; travelers can see plants and animals of many different species.
The rollercoaster was scary; I had to keep my eyes shut the entire time.

2. Utilize a semicolon between two closely related independent clauses when the second clause is introduced by a transitional word or phrase.

Frank was my best friend; therefore, I did not hesitate when he needed a kidney transplant.
Michael is known for his athleticism; in fact, his friends often call him "Jordan."
San Diego is a great city for sunny weather; consequently, people are surprised when it rains.

3. Use semicolons between items in a series when one or more of those items include commas.

Classic guitars are very collectible for many reasons; they sound fantastic; some, such as the Gibson Les Paul, appreciate in value; and they are usually hard to find which only increases their value.

Additional Semicolon Rules:

1. Semicolons are always followed by a lower case letter. The only exception to this rule is proper nouns which are always capitalized.
2. Similar to other punctuation marks that denote the end of a sentence or clause, do not add a space between the semicolon and the preceding word; however, there should be a single space after the semicolon.
3. When in doubt, use two separate sentences. This ensures you do not improperly use the semicolon and also makes your text easier to read.

Enjoy your writing!

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