Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Grammar #2: Rules about Semicolons

Last week I discussed the proper use of hyphenation. This week I want to turn to another confusing grammatical device, the semicolon. Semicolons are used for three reasons (1):

1.      To connect two related sentences. Consider, as example: “I wanted to go home; I had not been feeling well.”

2.      Semicolons can team up with a transition, such as a conjunctive adverb, to connect two sentences close in meaning. Consider, as example: “I wanted to go home; however, I was so busy I could not.”

3.      Semicolons can be used when you have complicated, confusing lists of items. Consider, as example: “During my travels I visited davenport, Iowa; Moline, Illinois; and Madison, Wisconsin.”
Some rules to follow:
·        The main clauses that are being connected should be close in meaning.

·        Don’t capitalize the word following the semicolon unless it is a proper noun.

·        Don’t over use them. To be honest, I do.

·        Use a semicolon between items in a list or series if any of the items contain commas.

·        Never use a comma splice. That is, when you have a conjunctive adverb (i.e. “however”, you should use the semicolon. Look:
“I am old, however, I feel young.” This is the mistake of a comma splice (2). The correct sentence should read:
“I am old; however, I feel young.” These are independent clauses, and a semicolon is needed, not a comma.
You can use them properly; however, use them carefully…
1.      http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/semicolon.htm, accessed January 16, 2013

2.      http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/Semicolons.html, accessed January 16. 2013

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