THE BI-POLAR SEMICOLON

Many writers fear the semicolon! They stay away: too difficult to understand. Too confusing. What are the rules for using it? Well, first, it has NOTHING to do with the colon (another story there).

Of late, the semicolon has had a revival of interest because of Project Semicolon/The Semicolon Project (which see). Then the meaning of the semicolon project morphed into a tattoo movement: [colon used here to explain what follows]: “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Others use the punctuation symbol to help remind themselves of struggles with mental illness–much like AA members have tattoos. Those curious ask, “What does that tattoo mean?” Struggle, survival, addiction, strength, adversity.

Imagine that a piece of punctuation [in the Greek language it represents a question mark!] has become more than the-dot-on-the-comma. It’s the talk of the town! Media publications, social media, classrooms, blogs about writing, and publications about punctuation.

Nevertheless, it’s a grammar thing/punctuation mark: IT IS A SEMI-PERIOD! A partial stop, a slow period/end stop that keeps going. It ends a sentence, yet connects within that sentence.

A. It connects when and, or, nor, but, for, so, yet, still are not used:
–I earned my pay increase; Fred is still working for his. [a full, yet slow stop]
–Our sales are a bit slow; however, they will pick up during the winter.
–Her maintenance fees overwhelmed her; then she moved out.

And a semicolon can separate, like a super-special comma, for clarity in a sentence.

B. It separates in long sentences, or sentences with many commas:
–Next year we will have offices in Winona, Mississippi; Winona, Minnesota; St. Cloud, Florida; St. Cloud, Minnesota; and in Denver.
–He recently started a new hobby, collecting model airplanes; but he still has his collections of stamps, coins, and model trains.

The semicolon isn’t really manic or depressive; it’s not bi-polar; it’s not suicidal. It is, however, a “big-people” piece of punctuation, needing to be understood. It produces a marriage of sentence parts (I kissed her on the mouth; she, in turn, slapped me.)

The humble and often-misunderstood and misused semicolon is special for readers and for writers. IT MUST NEVER INSTILL FEAR.

semicolons

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7 comments
  1. Thanks for this. I’ve never understood this punctuation mark. Having read how to use it, I get why I never do.

  2. Wish they’d explained it like this at school! 🙂

  3. Thank you for the enlightenment! I have always been a bit confused about the proper use of the semicolon; thus helps.

  4. Loved that! I remember the nuns teaching us that a semicolon links a little sentence to her big brother. Nuns! You know I love ’em–but I love semicolons more!

    • Thanks. You are so right about Sister Mary Rosary Beads. She taught us good–and well, too. (I’m never going to stop using that comma before too!)

  5. I love the semicolon especially for the sentences with many commas. I end up writing out cities and states for my UK readers, and semicolons neaten things up nicely, thank you very much.

  6. Excellent explanation; I love the semicolon!

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