How to Use a Semicolon

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38 thoughts on “How to Use a Semicolon

  1. Hayleigh

    No. “So much so, that I use them often” is not an independent clause; therefore, it is incorrect to link it to the previous clause with a semicolon. Think hairy knuckles.

  2. No

    ummm… no. try again.

    Personally, I love semicolons; I enjoy them so much and use them often.

    (“so much so, that I use them often” is not an independent clause.)

  3. Andrei

    The quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man without a Country:
    “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
    He was probably joking. So it goes.

  4. Wms BBC

    IMHO, the example sentences are a bit off gramatically.

    “The ice cream truck man” – Really, is he a transformer; half man, half truck?

    Wouldn’t it be better to simplify and say: “The ice cream truck driver with hairy knuckles drove his truck by my house today.” and then skip the semi colon?

    I get where you are coming from; I just think there could have been better example sentences. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Coal

    @Wms BBC

    Your example sentence sans semicolon contains the same elements as the example but it doesn’t say the same thing. The example introduces new information about the ice cream man, whereas yours makes the assumption that the listener/reader is already aware of the status of his knuckles. More specifically, your sentence takes the *new information* from the given example as a way to identify precisely *which* ice cream man drove by; it wasn’t the handsome clean shaven ice cream man that wears loud ties, it was the one with the hairy knuckles.

    Oh, THAT ice cream man…

  6. wheat

    This is a fun way to teach usage. You leave out one case though. You do use a semicolon with conjunctive adverbs, like “therefore” and “however,” when they start off a new independent clause (rather than just being a filler of some sort). Compare these two:

    1) I like your jacket; however, your shoes need polishing.
    2) I like your jacket. I, however, also think your shoes need polishing.

    So, you do use semicolons with certain sorts of conjunctions.

  7. Kevin

    Semicolons have been replaced by the dash – it does the same thing but looks cooler. You can still use the semicolon for lists though. If you’re ghey for semicolons or something.

  8. comatus

    One is hardly surprised at Vonnegut’s enmity: a full-blown colon would scarcely be expected to endorse such halfway measures.

  9. Opus

    Your advice not to use a semicolon with conjunctions is not entirely correct. For example, the following is a correct use of the semicolon: “My aunt has big hairy knuckles, and whenever she wore gloves, her knuckles would chafe; but she insisted on wearing gloves anyway.”

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