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Is the Semicolon Just Plain Silly?

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The semicolon: is it the most maddening and mysterious punctuation mark? Many writers avoid it altogether: when trying to express thoughts clearly, who needs a “semi” anything? Our task is not to sway your feelings, but to simply provide some definition to your like or dislike. When exactly should one use a semicolon? Fundamentally, what’s the difference between a colon and a semicolon?

The word colon is derived from the Greek kolon meaning “limb, member, portion” and the Latin colon, meaning “part of a poem.”

The : symbol was first introduced to English orthography around 1600. In John Bullokar’s An English expositor (1616) the author defines the colon as, “A marke of a sentence not fully ended which is made with two prickes.” The “prickes” Bullokar refers to are the equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line.

We’ve come to accept the use of the colon as falling somewhere between a semicolon and period. The punctuation mark informs the reader that whatever is written after the colon should usually prove or explain that which comes before. For example, “I have two dogs: Rufus and George.” In addition, the colon is often used to replace quotes in a passage as in the following: Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed: I have a dream.

Mathematics makes great use of the colon primarily in relation to ratios – 2:1 (two to one) and in mathematical logic – as in the phrase, “such that” which is assigned with the : symbol.

Though not a period or a comma, the semicolon is often used to list items and link related clauses. When used instead of a period between two sentences, the semicolon links the two and lets the reader know that both sentences have a stronger relationship to each other than the sentences around them.

The comma symbol within the semicolon denotes a slight pause instead of a full stop or period – leading many to incorporate the semicolon within a sentence to hint of fluidity.

Some linguists have questioned the need for the semicolon, stating that two sentences can exist separately and still relate a connective thought. However, others believe the semicolon is best suited for creative writers (such as Virginia Woolf and Herman Melville) who have managed to squeeze subtle expression out of the maligned mark.

Do you ever use the semicolon or do you avoid it at all costs? Let us know below.

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Wireless News November 6, 2010

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((Comments on this story may be sent to newsdesk@closeupmedia.com))

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411 Comments

    • Mike Eice -  August 5, 2014 - 7:23 pm

      I love the semicolon; I try to use it whenever I can. Hemingway was brilliant in his use of the semicolon for direct, brusque speak.

      Reply
  1. Nageenakaur Kaur -  April 9, 2014 - 10:48 am

    Usage of semicolon is beneficial and recommended for fluidity of expression

    Reply
  2. Nageenakaur Kaur -  April 9, 2014 - 10:45 am

    Rightly said that the semi colon indicates the fluidity of expression and being in the 5eaching profession I would recommend its usage

    Reply
  3. Frederick B. Hall -  April 8, 2014 - 4:39 am

    I use a semicolon to connect a complete sentence with a phrase. I use a colon to list items. Lately I have seen, on-line, many people who never learned to punctuate properly. That is frustrating to me. I too have much to learn there.
    Would you please explain the 3 dots … and the 4 dots…. My understanding is, 3 dots indicate something was left out mid-sentence and the sentence continues. Four dots indicate something was left out previously and the sentence ends with the 4 dots. Thank you for this feature. I love it.

    Reply
  4. T. Andrew -  April 7, 2014 - 7:03 am

    From high school on thru college; all my English teachers held different opinions about the humble colon/semi-colon. Even tho I’m not a author, I have written for small groups; the few churches I’ve pastored & online blog commentary. I believe I’ve now finally had the colon/semi-colon use probability explained.
    Addtional note: I can only hope that the archaic spelling of some: -ough & -ought words; shall pass away & the shortened word-use becomes officially acceptable.

    Reply
    • TDawg -  April 9, 2014 - 7:50 pm

      Thru? Tho? Seriously?
      And you repeatedly used semi-colons incorrectly.

      I’d blame all of those English teachers.

      Reply
      • Acme -  April 10, 2014 - 11:28 pm

        Totally agree.
        Confused readers with such orrendous use of the semi-colon.
        But wait, how come the teachers are responsible for this? Im certain not a minute set of his classmates got this usage correctly.

        Reply
    • Logan James -  June 2, 2014 - 4:14 pm

      It’s not a, it’s an. It seems like everybody, always, gets it wrong.

      Reply
  5. Ed -  April 6, 2014 - 5:36 am

    The two phrases “many people have washed their cars” and “many a person has washed his (or her) car” are conceptually different. The former describes a population of car washers. The latter describes an ensemble of individual car washers. The difference is in visualizing a mass of humanity laboring over cars in a bird’s eye view, perhaps like the swarming zombies in “World War Z”
    in the first phrase. The second is documentary about hard-working car-care-giving individuals, perhaps teenagers (hyphen or not?) earning their allowance: a sort of San Luis Rey of car washing where we look into the details of their lives that somehow fated each one to elevate the hygiene of a grateful automobile.

    Reply
  6. Scott Shealy -  April 6, 2014 - 5:35 am

    The semi-colon is used to connect two independent clauses.

    I couldn’t figure out which way Mary went; she left in such a hurry.

    It can also be used to take the place of an introductory clause such as: but, yet, although etc.

    Reply
  7. Michelle Ward -  April 5, 2014 - 10:18 pm

    The use of a semi-colon always confused me!! It took me twenty years to “get” it!! Even so, I don’t find much use for it.

    Reply
  8. Drew -  April 5, 2014 - 7:04 pm

    I have been using semicolons in (long) lists where the word “and” is included:
    “The house has many fine qualities including: a swimming pool and spa; a balcony and lookout; an efficient pantry and kitchen; and a huge games room.”
    Is this a correct use?

    Reply
    • Joshua -  April 7, 2014 - 7:08 am

      Yes, this usage would be correct, though your example includes a necessary part which was left unsaid. In writing a list, the usage of a semicolon or a comma depends on the inclusion of a colon. To compare:

      “The house has many fine qualities, including a swimming pool and spa, a balcony, … and a huge games room.”
      vs.
      “The house has many fine qualities, including: a swimming pool; a spa; a balcony; … and a huge games room.”

      Reply
  9. Chris -  April 5, 2014 - 7:01 pm

    I use the semicolon all the time; I find that it elevates my writing.

    Reply
  10. Annie Wright -  April 5, 2014 - 8:23 am

    I use the semicolon frequently in my writing for ease of flow; it serves to make my thoughts more coupled.

    Reply
  11. Mae B. -  November 17, 2013 - 7:57 pm

    “Many a person has washed their car.”
    This is also incorrect grammar. It should read
    “Many a person has washed HIS car.”
    Alternatively,
    “Many people have washed THEIR cars.”
    OR,
    “Many a person has washed HIS [OR HER} car.”

    Reply
  12. Lane -  November 12, 2013 - 5:06 pm

    I would just like to point out to those who believe that “many a writer avoids” is incorrect that it is, in fact correct to say that. In conversation, things like this are said and are grammatically correct. For example: “many a baseball player has been hurt in a game.” Although the word ‘many’ implies the noun being plural, the noun is actually being spoken about in terms of being singular. It’s like saying “many baseball players” in a more conversational way. Another example is this: “many a person has washed their car.” It would sound weird to say “many a person have washed their car.” It’s just not grammatically correct. And yes, Carlitos, I am talking to you when I say that before you come on the internet and use what you think is an impressive vocabulary, not to mention that you are being pretentious towards everyone who made one tiny typo on their keyboard, to think about what you are typing. For the record, if we were debating this in person, I have no doubt that I would fight you on this point. I’ve argued with people about these things before, and I’d do it again. So thanks a lot, but your opinion on this matter is invalid to me.

    Reply
  13. Deyland -  February 14, 2012 - 1:56 pm

    I’ve always said the semi-colon is the sexiest punctuation mark; it feels good when you get it right and you can do it all night. I use it a lot; sometimes I even overuse it; but as long as it works, I figure why not.

    Reply
    • B. Griffin Meiling -  April 6, 2014 - 11:18 am

      Love this. A comment after my own heart.

      Reply
  14. Adam Clarke -  December 14, 2011 - 4:25 pm

    I used to avoid using it since I was confused about how to use it; I will use it now to enhance the flow of my writing.

    Reply
  15. Judge1967 -  December 12, 2011 - 1:58 pm

    Re: Russ Richards on June 28, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    I thank Mr. Richards for his post on the semi-colon.

    It would serve all posters to this discussion to read it thoroughly.

    Mr. Richards sites four uses for the semi-colon. Two of these uses involve linking independent clauses “connecting closely related ideas” within a sentence.

    Must the reader be directed by a punctuation mark to conclude that two independent clauses are related?

    As they are independent clauses, would the reader not be able to logically deduce this relationship if they are separated by a period?

    In this context, the semi-colon serves the stylistic function of making longer sentences and nothing more. How much value this adds to written works is debatable.

    Mr Richards describes another use of the semi-colon as follows:

    “Link lengthy clauses or clauses with commas to avoid confusion between clauses”.

    The potential for confusion between clauses within a compound sentence with multiple commas is the product of too much punctuation. The semi-colon may render such a sentence grammatically correct, but is it preferable to the more concise structure offered by two or more shorter sentences in its place?

    Linking lists with a semi-colon where items contain commas is sensible.

    Limiting its use in this way will serve readers best.

    Reply
  16. hafeeza -  December 1, 2011 - 8:31 am

    wow i use semicolons a lot

    Reply
  17. Deyland -  October 16, 2011 - 4:56 pm

    Frankly, I can’t imagine life without the semi-colon; but then why would I? I have always insisted that the semi-colon is sexy; I like sexy things and use them a lot, almost to the point of abuse; so I often have to be careful. Well, you know what I mean; I mean I respect the semi-colon and all, and I’ll respect it in the morning as well, but maybe I can do better at times. But maybe I don’t want to do better; maybe I’ll marry the damn thing!

    Reply
  18. Amazed -  October 5, 2011 - 7:37 am

    I’m amazed that this garnered such a long comment list; I must be missing out on a vibrant little corner of the internet.

    P.S. I use the semicolon daily.

    Reply
  19. Ol' Scratch -  September 5, 2011 - 11:04 pm

    I see the colon and semicolon as very important parts of the written language: the colon separates the primary subject from the following, supporting statements; much like an outline, where the section header is supported by the following list of facts or statements or words.

    What bothers me the most is that most grade and high schools are teaching children to ignore them altogether, and create writings that are composed of short, simple sentences, that read like a list of totally unrelated bits that just got tossed onto the page without much thought for the readability of the document.

    The comma is the short pause; the semicolon is the longer pause between separate facts that are linked logically, or forced into a link by the author wishing us to consider said linkage. The colon is the pause between an overall or main subject, which is followed by a list of linked words or statements supporting it. And the period is the “full-stop”, that ends the complete thought or idea or statement, whether it be standalone or leading to the next thought/idea/statement.

    Reply
  20. Katie V -  September 1, 2011 - 10:30 am

    I avoided this funny little mark for years until I (mostly) understood what is was used for: now I love it. I think I over-use it in all honesty.

    Reply
  21. Lawrence -  August 9, 2011 - 11:21 am

    To Kim — I like the way you demonstrated the good use of a semicolon in your comment. Very nice.

    Reply
  22. Lawrence -  August 9, 2011 - 11:17 am

    To AndrewG — very nice explanation of the avoid v.s. avoids question. I think now that Carlitos will understand.

    Reply
  23. cgknoxmd -  July 21, 2011 - 9:09 pm

    I love the semicolon! I use it often!

    Reply
  24. Muhammad Ehtisham -  July 20, 2011 - 12:00 pm

    Tried to use it a lot even when writing texts via cell phone but didn’t knew the exact use of it. now crystal clear, thanks

    Reply
  25. Otakore Literantadodist -  July 16, 2011 - 4:43 pm

    I use it:
    “Enjoy vacation cruise with extended package; a surprising family package!”
    Instead of unconditional writing below:
    “Enjoy vacation cruise with extended package. . . a surprising family package!”

    Reply
  26. Al -  July 16, 2011 - 8:13 am

    I love the semi-colon; the other writers in my critique group don’t.

    Reply
  27. Lefty -  July 14, 2011 - 4:51 pm

    This was very informative!! Always a pleasure to read all the cool articles and most of all the put downs of fellow bloggers LOL!! Am I only one that gets a kick out of all the arrogant and condesending comments people leave to point out misspelling and improper grammar!!

    Reply
  28. Terry -  July 9, 2011 - 10:19 am

    One function of the semicolon: it makes it easy to distinguish literate people from the uneducated.

    Reply
  29. Helen -  July 9, 2011 - 2:07 am

    According to the good Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters who taught us how to diagram sentences:
    a semicolon is used in place of conjunctions: AND, BUT….

    Requiescant in pace.

    Reply
  30. Brutus -  July 8, 2011 - 1:13 pm

    Anybody tired of reading about the semicolon yet? It’s been about 8 days now.

    Reply
  31. Rick -  July 8, 2011 - 12:19 pm

    The colon and it’s sibling the semicolon are instruments with specific uses. Ignoring them is tantamount to using a pan instead of a hammer.
    The colon also separates a sentence from a list for which the sentence requires naming..
    The semicolon, helps in constructing a stronger sentence out of two related thoughts when each thought could be a separate sentence.
    Plus, most email’s “to” lists being with to: and several email addresses are separated by the erstwhile semicolon.
    Use it or not…Always use them…hopefully correctly.
    Next topic: elipses

    Reply
  32. Kim -  July 8, 2011 - 7:09 am

    I am completing a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, where I must write a minimum of two term papers per week. I use the semicolon on a regular basis, in much the same manner as decribed in the above article. Generally, I only use the colon to denote consecutive things such as “I have 12 of the same sweaters in various colors: blue, green, red, yellow, etc. I think that I agree with the author of the above article in that there really does not appear to be much difference in the way I use the semi colon, and the colon would probably accomplish the same thing; however, I use a semicolon the most.

    Reply
  33. Quinn Culver -  July 7, 2011 - 11:22 pm

    @Hot Word You said “…the phrase, [sic] “such that” which is assigned with the : symbol.” This only occurs in certain instances of the use of the phrase such that. Specifically, in set notation, as in {x:x>0}, which is read as “the set of all x such that x>0″ (even though such a collection might not even be a set!). There is an alternative symbol sometimes used which roughly looks like a backwards (lowercase) epsilon.

    @Tralee I don’t think your “point of correction” is necessary. The notation “2:1″ can be read as “two to one” or “two is to one” depending on context. Moreover, I’d say “two to one” is more common, as in “The ration of eggs to flour is 2:1″; reading the ratio there as “two is to one” would be incorrect.

    Reply
  34. Cathy -  July 7, 2011 - 10:10 pm

    I use semicolons all the time! It gives your writing a nice flow (as long as it is used sparingly) and keeps your sentence structure varied. I use it only with very closely related ideas.

    Reply
  35. Edna -  July 7, 2011 - 1:45 pm

    Of course I use it! When writing complex sentences, the proper use of punctuation is not optional; it is the mark of a sound composer of the written word. My English teachers and professors from days past would be quite disappointed if I did not utilize all the tools available.

    Reply
  36. carlitoslearnenglish -  July 7, 2011 - 8:55 am

    Please do not feed the trolls, namely @Carlitos,

    especially ones with such obvious intentions. Carlitos, try to follow your own advice: ” Get lives.”

    Reply
  37. Ash -  July 7, 2011 - 8:40 am

    I use the semi-colon a lot; it really helps if you know how to use it.

    Reply
  38. Dadi Bhote -  July 7, 2011 - 4:57 am

    I love the semi colon. I use it all the time.
    It is , I find, a particularly useful tool for writers who tend to write long sentences.
    And now with email , web addresses etc the semi colon is a useful seperator.

    Reply
  39. JJ Rousseau -  July 6, 2011 - 9:17 am

    Update, update: Roof; Roof;Roof! Configure that. Oui, remain aloof. Ahm a Dog; whadya expect?

    Reply
  40. Hebert Henry -  July 6, 2011 - 6:33 am

    I do use both colon and semi-colon often in my French and English writings. I feel that they add fluidity and coherence.

    Reply
  41. mabk -  July 6, 2011 - 5:32 am

    There’s nothing a semi-colon can do that a comma can’t do just as well.

    Reply
  42. Archon -  July 6, 2011 - 12:10 am

    To whoever thought that this was the most interesting subject because it had the most posts, take a look down the list of Hot Words. At this time there are 353 comments on this thread. Prejudice about Names, a couple below, has 381, and Mr., Mrs. and Ms., near the bottom of the pile has 530. Most of the posts about names are caused by incorrect comprehension of the article, but I can understand the desire to defend names and life positions. The results for Mr., Mrs. and Ms just astound me though. Who would have thought that there were that many people who felt so strongly about honorifics, especially when they involve female marital status.

    Reply
  43. Carlitos -  July 5, 2011 - 6:04 pm

    I, quite literally, am rolling on the floor, laughing my arse off at the absent mettle of the inane combative responses to something so insignificant as internet blog comments. I must confess, that I am as guilty as the next of perpetuating the fruitless and arrogant pursuits of us all trying to prove to eachother who has the best grasp of English grammar. There is not one grammatically flawless entry in this entire blog! But to see people continue to say the same thing over and over is quite hysterical, and I can’t help but wonder if your testicularly-fortitudinous arrogance would be so significant if we were face to face having these debates instead of from the impersonal distances of the internet. I’d like to think that it would not be, as most of you probably treat real people with much more respect than you do on this blog. Get lives.

    Reply
  44. Wash Phillips -  July 5, 2011 - 1:55 pm

    Alas, I don’t have all month to read the voluminous comments here; as far as I read, one proper use seemed to be missing: to separate phrases or clauses in series, when each has or some have a comma already contained within. To wit:

    “We invited Dan Webb, the captain of the team; Sue Mills, the president of our class; and Joe Flynn, the chairman of our group.”

    This is a use described in my 12-grade English handbook as “for clearness.”

    If this usage has already been covered by comments preceding this one, please accept my apologies.

    Reply
  45. Peter -  July 5, 2011 - 12:16 pm

    I use the semicolon frequently. I use it to link two thoughts that could each stand alone but are made stronger by adjoining them.

    Reply
  46. Jim -  July 5, 2011 - 12:11 pm

    Of course I use the semi-colon; what’s with you guys?

    Reply
  47. glofchm -  July 5, 2011 - 10:47 am

    Many do. It’s a pronoun.
    Many a writer does. It has an adjectival function.

    The colon is very useful for lists: for things to do; for things that have ocurred; for other such uses.

    Reply
  48. Gerry F -  July 5, 2011 - 8:59 am

    Thank you; reinforces what the good ‘Sisters of Notre Dame’ taught me in elementary school.

    Reply
  49. Nettie -  July 5, 2011 - 8:39 am

    @ Carlitos

    “Many a” is used to talk about each and every one of a large number. Therefore it is always used with a singular verb form.

    Reply
  50. Richard -  July 5, 2011 - 8:16 am

    It’s very simple, really.

    1) “Many a writer avoid” = grammatically incorrect
    2) “Many a writer avoids” = grammatically correct
    3) “Many writers avoid” = grammatically correct

    Younger or less well-read folks may feel more comfortable with option 3, but option 2 is unquestionably grammatically correct.

    Reply
  51. Nick at Nite -  July 5, 2011 - 8:12 am

    I use the semi-colon all the time in letter writing, especially if it’s an expressive (verbose) letter; it serves the purpose of separating similar thoughts into two sections, but still keeping them sewn together.

    Reply
  52. Anna -  July 5, 2011 - 8:10 am

    Also used to express a contrast, e.g., “Anna uses semi-colons; some other people don’t.”

    Reply
  53. Bill W -  July 5, 2011 - 7:29 am

    With the careful use of semi-colon, colon and em dash, I find it much easier to convey the rhythm of speech — which makes the reader feel as though we’re having a conversation. Words alone speak; words with verbal spacing speak wonders.

    Reply
  54. MIKE -  July 5, 2011 - 7:01 am

    Drew Nutter’s comment above was technically the most informative on the use of the semicolon. I would add only that the flow of the sentence is integral to deciding whether or not to use the punctuation. Two independent clauses can certainly be joined by a comma. However, sometimes using a joining word (and, because, etc) breaks the rhythm, or in dialogue is not natural to how people talk. There are rules to using a semicolon and to me it is an indispensable tool.
    The semicolon is the writer’s artistry of expression; the writer’s craft and deftness to nuance decides the use of the semicolon.

    Reply
  55. Saood Khan -  July 5, 2011 - 6:50 am

    It just wanna say that it is really important to use semicolon because without semicolon you cannot read the sentence properly

    Reply
  56. Conyers -  July 5, 2011 - 6:49 am

    First, let me thank Dictionary.com for this article about semicolons, in addition to their other articles, and for allowing us, the readers, to comment.

    Though I am not an English major, I easily recognize and am appalled at the ignorance of so many Americans; comments written to blogs and to news articles reveal a low level of understanding of the meaning of words, punctuation, and capitalization: words such as “your” vs. “you’re”, “there” vs. “their” vs. “they’re”, and the rest, ad nauseam; punctuation such as the subject of this article, the semicolon; and capitalization which can, probably, be blamed on text messaging. Can you imagine the difficulty of another person just learning English trying to understand the comments they are reading on the Internet when those comments are so poorly written?

    As you can see, I use the semicolon often in my attempts to communicate with others. I try to follow the guidance of a little book, 4-3/4″ x 6-7/8″, titled “CONCISE English Handbook” by Kirkland and Dilworth which was one of my college text books in the early nineties. A valuable resource, I kept mine while the majority, if not all, of students turned theirs in for resale. My attempts to persuade them to keep their handbooks were futile. If you’re interested in this little book, I have inserted the Amazon website as my website for you to view; see section number 24 by clicking on the picture of the cover followed by navigating into the book via the “Next Page” arrow on the right side. I have the 2nd Edition and see that I should upgrade.

    No doubt, I will be castigated by some for my, above, comment. My defense will be that I am not an English major but, at least I try to write using the approved conventions for writing in the English language. I may not be perfect but, you will have a better chance of understanding my comments over the comments of, unfortunately, many others. Try to write effectively; we can, at least, try.

    Reply
  57. Rosvita -  July 5, 2011 - 6:22 am

    @DT,

    If you’re still around and reading, the answer to your question is no, your example is not correct.

    The four of us: Tom; Dick; Mary; and Rebecca seem to use this to express
    our writing the words of poetic pain.

    Good try, but no. As there is no possibility of confusion, a comma will do. And I would probably use hyphens to separate the names:

    The four of us — Tom, Dick, Mary and I — use the semi-colon when writing to express our poetic pain.

    As you use the word “us”, one of the people must be you!

    And it is “I”, not “me” (just in case you were wondering). Now that the semi-colon debate has raged for almost a week, we can probably move on to the correct usage of “I” and “me”! The worst: me and him went to the movies.
    It’s so easy to avoid. When would you ever say “me went to the movies”?

    Great to see that language and grammar issues can incite such fervor!

    Reply
  58. David Sore -  July 5, 2011 - 5:41 am

    I was taught that the semi colon divides a sentence which states both fact and opinion; I for one like this explanation!

    Reply
  59. Rereke Whakaaro -  July 5, 2011 - 1:54 am

    I agree with Courtenay (June 28, 2011 at 1:21 am).
    My use of punctuation is more formal than creative prose (although often creative its way).
    If I am required to list options, for example, I will use the following punctuation.
    The options available are:
    1. Never use the semicolon;
    2. Use a semicolon incorrectly;
    3. Use a semicolon correctly, but in the wrong circumstances; or
    4 Use a semicolon in the correct way; and do so for the best of reasons.
    I always recommend the final option; even though such advice may be misguided.

    Reply
  60. kyuri -  July 5, 2011 - 1:33 am

    Because the use of semicolon is not really well-defined & to make it not vanish from the punctuation marks’ family, thus people use it in programming. Semicolon is extremely important for some programming languages or the application/system won’t live. I don’t know how to use it correctly in a sentence but I do use it almost everyday in programming to make it correct. ;)

    Reply
  61. Albear -  July 5, 2011 - 12:15 am

    I as well love the semi-colon. I have learned to use it through the writings of our Founding Fathers and of its time.

    Reply
  62. Henryhand -  July 4, 2011 - 11:54 pm

    Hello Zog and Attyman, it’s refreshing to know many of us know our grammar ( I’m still learning) and will graciously come forward to enlighten nincompoops. I wanted so, to vent vitriol towards @Carlitos, but my saner half tugged at me; thus, your comments are refreshing and delightful. I thought “@Carelesstos” would have done well to revisit his grammar tome, to also reflect on a more affable attitude. Alas, he came back, unrepentent, as arrogant as ever. To use “@Carelesstos’” word, it’s chocking me not to barf at his prose.

    Reply
  63. Egghead -  July 4, 2011 - 10:34 pm

    .
    @carlitos “as I understood them to be,” yes and now i hope you stand corrected unless your skull is thicker than i first had imagined.

    Reply
  64. Laureate -  July 4, 2011 - 6:39 pm

    I use a semicolon when it’s not quite an explanation, but a continuation.

    Reply
  65. paul iii -  July 4, 2011 - 6:27 pm

    carlitos’ s grasp of grammar is laughable.sounds right but doesnt seem right after all…

    Reply
  66. Jarmihi -  July 4, 2011 - 5:52 pm

    I use the semicolon regularly. I’ve never found it to be useless. Try this sentence: When you go to the store later, I need a loaf of bread; a tub of butter; a bottle of wine, which will help liven up the evening; and a good, non-alcoholic beverage.

    Without the semicolons denoting items in a list, the sentence would read thus: When you go to the store later, I need a loaf of bread, a tub of butter, a bottle of wine, which will help liven up the evening, and a good, non-alcoholic beverage.

    Please tell me where to find a product called “which will help liven up the evening” or an “and a good”.

    Semicolons can be important.

    Reply
  67. Dale A. Wood -  July 4, 2011 - 4:54 pm

    Semicolons are also quite useful when writing lists like these:

    This summer, I will be visiting Biloxi, Columbus, Georgia; Columbus, Mississippi; Durham, Greenville, South Carolina; Greenville, Alabama; Houston, Jackson, Mississippi; Jackson, Tennessee; Louisville, Memphis, Mobile, Nashville, Natchez, Orlando, Pensacola, Raleigh, Rome, Georgia; Savannah, Tallahassee, Tampa, Vicksburg, and Winston-Salem. I have a lot of business to do in the Deep South.

    DAW

    Reply
  68. Book Beater -  July 4, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    @ Ian G
    Colon; originally from Greek for limb, member, or clause; hence the wide application in modern English.

    Reply
  69. Drew Nutter -  July 4, 2011 - 2:43 pm

    A comma separates phrases in which at least one is either incomplete (not a full sentence) or in a series with a conjunction. A semicolon separates complete phrases where there is no conjunction, and a period would be grammatically correct but is unwarranted due to strongly related context. A colon is used when the first phrase directly references the second and does not cover beyond the first period; it should not reference future sentences. For example, if this paragraph were started with, “Here is my rule of thumb:” this would imply that only the sentence regarding commas is my rule of thumb. To use this type of phrase with a colon to represent each sentence as a rule of thumb one must start every sentence with “Here is my rule of thumb regarding [punctuation mark X]:”

    @Still Confused,
    A hyphen is used only to connect words. For example, you use a hyphen when you use compound words, such as “self-evident.” Additionally, hyphens can be used in printed text where a line ends and the next is started with opposing ends of the same word, split by syllables, as seen here:
    This data has been manipul-
    ated by many intentional incon-
    gruencies.

    You are probably thinking about a dash, a slightly longer punctuation mark, which is used between phrases. The short en dash is used in place of a hyphen in the event that short phrases are compounded like compound words, such as “Pre-Civil War.” The longer em dash–which is often signified by two en dashes in a row–has a couple unique usages. One usage can be seen in the prior sentence, where it is used in place of parentheses to imply that the enclosed phrase is more significantly related than a parenthetical phrase would be. Additionally, the em dash is often used in literature in place of ellipses (…) to indicate a sentence has been cut short and not simply shortened for relevance.

    Reply
  70. Flea -  July 4, 2011 - 1:26 pm

    I used colons and semicolons all the time in my writing; I feel they link two sentences together while continuing an explanation much smoother than two sentences followed with a period. It’s almost as if I am sharing my train of though with the reader.

    Reply
  71. unapology -  July 4, 2011 - 1:20 pm

    For over-40 men who are pain-averse, there is always the semi-colonoscopy.

    Reply
  72. Larson Bennett -  July 4, 2011 - 1:18 pm

    Following a rather extensive abdominal operation, my friend was left with only a semi color; however, I continue to admire it as a mark of punctuation.

    Reply
  73. Danforth -  July 4, 2011 - 11:18 am

    I always use the semi-colon; it’s like a conjunction!

    That’s how I was taught to use it. If one uses it in place of a conjunction to connect two sentences that are spoken together; it will create a more coherent thought process.

    Some may argue in that last sentence that I could have just used a comma; however, the comma is best reserved for other things in my opinion.

    Reply
  74. Mona -  July 4, 2011 - 10:59 am

    I think I have a better idea now about using a simi-colon. I have a comment on the use of the “avoids” vs. “avoid.” I don’t think the noun always has to be in agreement with the verb, maybe in Spanish but not English. Ex: She avoids going to night clubs. The noun is singular but you need an “s” at the end of the word avoid in this case. In fact, putting an “s” at the end of a verb doesn’t make the verb plural. Somebody needs to brush up on their English grammar!

    Reply
  75. Bill -  July 4, 2011 - 10:50 am

    To “CPT Otter Fundip” above: That actually isn’t a proper use of a semicolon. If the word “because” weren’t there, a semicolon it would be fine, as the clauses would each stand on their own. The “because”, however, makes the second clause depend on the first, and therefore calls for a comma, not a semicolon.

    In fact, a large number of people here are misusing it in their posts. The purpose of a semicolon is to combine two COMPLETE SENTENCES into one because they are so closely related as to convey one thought. A clause which comes after a semicolon should therefore be capable of standing alone as a sentence. As in, “We went to see a bad movie last night; we should have stayed home”. Either clause would stand alone as its own sentence. If the clauses on either side of the semicolon would not stand alone, you need a comma, not a semicolon.

    Reply
  76. perplexed -  July 4, 2011 - 9:18 am

    how can one expect us to use correctly if linguists themselves are befuddled?

    Reply
  77. Still Confused -  July 4, 2011 - 8:44 am

    Can anyone please explain to me the difference between a semi-colon and a hyphon?

    Reply
  78. Sandi -  July 4, 2011 - 8:40 am

    To Writer: Your editor isn’t a good editor. I’m an editor, and I love semicolons when they are used correctly. I’m always happy to see a writer who knows how to use them. Few do anymore. Find a new editor. :)

    Reply
  79. Amber -  July 4, 2011 - 8:34 am

    I found out what they are used for in an English class a while back, and since then, I’ve pretty much overused them.

    Reply
  80. Susan -  July 4, 2011 - 8:32 am

    In the past year, I’ve been using the semicolon quite a bit. Don’t know why exactly, but it’s very useful, and I really appreciate your bringing it to our attention, and defining its meaning.

    I tend to use a lot of dashes — to get my point across.

    But the semiC is even better; an important part of writing well!

    Reply
  81. Nick -  July 4, 2011 - 8:16 am

    Semicolons are used to separate groups of words with internal commas; for example, a list of state capitals: Montgomery, Alabama; Juneau, Alaska; Phoenix, Arizona; etc.

    Reply
  82. Hussain -  July 4, 2011 - 6:50 am

    Its awesome,

    I think these two things are widely used in the literature but many peoples don’t have this specific knowledge and its proper usage. Its nice hope that this article become prolific for us which yields better usage in future.

    Reply
  83. writer -  July 4, 2011 - 5:33 am

    I use semicolons. I put them where I feel they work best and enhance the story. Then my editor takes them all out. oh well.

    Reply
  84. clark -  July 4, 2011 - 4:24 am

    @,”) ;d :-D

    Reply
  85. clark -  July 4, 2011 - 4:22 am

    I used it a lot specially in Mails etc. . . . . . . .

    Reply
  86. ron archie austria -  July 4, 2011 - 3:29 am

    for me, the use and the importance of these two punctuation marks lie on how the writer/user will make a meaningful sentence out of his/her ideas. it need not to be discussed whether they’re not too functional or not because, at any rate, a lot of writers have already used them and their reader (most of) seemed to appreciate their works.

    Reply
  87. Ian G -  July 4, 2011 - 1:27 am

    I didn’t see any attempts to explain why it’s so named. My assumption is that ‘colon’ is from a Latin or Spanish root, meaning the end, from which we get the term ‘colonies’, at the end of the earth in relation to the colonist nations.
    I hope we all know what ‘semi’ means!

    Reply
  88. Edmund Singleton -  July 4, 2011 - 1:20 am

    I let spell check decide…

    Reply
  89. Montgomery -  July 3, 2011 - 10:51 pm

    Someone upthread asked about the spacing after a semicolon. I was recently told that two spaces are no longer used after periods and colons to save bandwidth or some such utilitarian nonsense. In a more civilized era, those marks WERE followed by two spaces, and the comma and semicolon by one.

    Strunk and White limit the use of the semicolon to compound sentences made up of two or more grammatically-complete clauses that do not use conjunctions between the clauses. The exceptions are sentences in which the clauses are short and alike in form, which use commas. You can think of the preceding as being quotes from “The Elements of Style,” since any paraphrasing would be inferior to the original.

    Reply
  90. Jeff -  July 3, 2011 - 10:07 pm

    ;D

    Reply
  91. Leslie -  July 3, 2011 - 7:52 pm

    I don’t really like the semicolon. When writing, I use commas a lot.

    Reply
  92. Eric -  July 3, 2011 - 6:56 pm

    Are you kidding me? semi-colons are my favorite writing symbols! You can use them to tie a single word to a sentence. I use them for introductory sentences all the time when I can’t think of anything clever to do. I just write the topic, put a semicolon, and begin explaining more about that word until I’ve got a nice topic sentence going. For example:

    Words; They’re perhaps one of the most important thing ever invented, with virtually limitless ways they can be utilized.

    Reply
  93. Carlitos -  July 3, 2011 - 5:19 pm

    Wow! So many responses, and I never once called anyone any names though that courtesy was surely shown to me:

    Dilettantic? (what is this, Egghead?)
    Angry?
    Sociopath?
    Troll?

    I simply pointed out grammatical errors, mistakes, or poor use of English as I understood them to be, though arguably in a somewhat critical way. Look what I am called by those proclaiming to be more intelligent or alluding to being more sensitive or kind! I’m satisfied that my initial comments generated such an active blog. Obviously, the interest folks here have of the semicolon is mostly to credit; however, I feel there are a lot of people here who simply like to stir sheet up. To my own defense, I spend my time here while at work and during my long night shifts and I sure do enjoy mixing it up with the readership of this blog. I also must say I appreciate the roughly 50% of folks who responded to my comments who are in agreement with those comments. Until next time!

    Reply
  94. Stephan Hughes -  July 3, 2011 - 5:03 pm

    The semi-colon is in no way useless; in fact, it is a powerful ally of linking devices.

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  95. Colin -  July 3, 2011 - 4:44 pm

    To explain the many ways in which the semicolon would take too long; it is useful in a myriad of situations. My studies in literature, including Virginia Woolf, is possibly how I really came to understand its delicate effect.

    Reply
  96. frankie -  July 3, 2011 - 3:36 pm

    I use the heck out of it; it lets me hide my penchant for run on sentences. I also abuse the period. Because it adds emphasis. Seriously.

    Reply
  97. sarroth -  July 3, 2011 - 2:44 pm

    You didn’t mentioned the use of the semicolon in a list of items. While normally you would list items as “My favorite dramatic films are The Godfather, A Beautiful Mind, and The Departed,” if one or more items in the list include a comma, it’s easier to follow by using the semicolon: “My favorite romantic comedies are Something’s Gotta Give; Love, Actually; and You’ve Got Mail.”

    Reply
  98. Eathan -  July 3, 2011 - 2:16 pm

    I have always used it in this way:
    Once upon a time there was a halfling; not a monster or the like, mind you; rather a mysterious and very lovable chap.
    I imagine it confuses alot of people but I use it as a pause of thought about the sentence before it so the one coming after it will be emphasized.

    Reply
  99. Ruth Cunningham -  July 3, 2011 - 2:07 pm

    I use the semicolon regularly in my writing. As a writer I find it a most useful tool in expressing subtleties of meaning that might otherwise remain only audible values; it’s an aid to translating spoken ideas accurately, into their written form.

    Reply
  100. Connie -  July 3, 2011 - 1:10 pm

    Honestly, I use them all the time. Semi-colons, that is, colons do nothing for me. Semi-colons are usually just what I need when writing; not dramatic like a full stop, but not a breather like a comma, they let me create longer sentences the way I want them to be created. I love it.

    Reply
  101. Tyler C -  July 3, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    To Jen,
    I agree with you about the semi colon helping us “to hear” how to read it. It’s useful for a playwright when writing in dialogue as it gives immediate clarity. A help to actors. And yes, the its vs it’s rule deserves ten minutes of attention from everyone. It’s easy to learn.

    Reply
  102. Tyler C -  July 3, 2011 - 12:55 pm

    I love the semicolon. It comes in handy; its purpose is unique and satisfying. Did I misuse it there? It’s useful in prose resumes, like an actor’s listing in a playbill. ‘Richard’s credits include Harvey, Death of a Salesman, Hair (Public Theatre); Godspell, House of Blue Leaves (Steppenwolf Theatre);

    Reply
  103. Jeremy Cabral -  July 3, 2011 - 10:38 am

    That’s funny, as a hobby on my blog I have this mindset that “I’m bringing it back baby!” So I end up using it all the time.

    I use it, such that, if a sentence is over and where a normal person would drop a period; however if the very next line that follows COULD have been part of that sentence, I drop the semi-colon instead.

    Reply
  104. Jeremy Cabral -  July 3, 2011 - 10:37 am

    That’s funny, as a hobby on my blog I have this mindset that “I’m bringing it back baby!” So I end up using it all the time.

    I use it, such that, if a sentence is over and where a normal person would drop a period; however if the very next line that follows COULD have been part of that sentence, I drop the semi-colon instead.

    Reply
  105. CC Rider -  July 3, 2011 - 10:22 am

    @Carlitos:

    Your logic and usage are exactly 180 out. A singular noun requires a plural verb (or, at least, one which ends in s) ; so ‘avoids’ would be correct. If the sentence read “many writers”, then avoid would be the choice. (i.e. writers avoid; a writer avoids)

    Reply
  106. Taz -  July 3, 2011 - 10:10 am

    @Carlitos

    “Many a writer” IS NOT plural, just as “EACH person” and “everyONE” are not plural; they refer to every person individually, not as a whole. It can be read as “For each writer, that writer avoids.”

    In the above phrases, the subjects are “writer”, “person”, and “one”, respectively. All three are SINGULAR.

    If you’re going to act so smugly superior about your “corrections”, the least you could do is quickly research to make sure you actually know what you’re talking about. It’s not hard to find this information.

    Reply
  107. epiphenom82 -  July 3, 2011 - 9:51 am

    i love the semicolon, too. i probably use it and the colon more than any other less-than-conventional orthographic mark in the english language when writing daily. love this stuff; glad others do, too!

    Reply
  108. Kez -  July 3, 2011 - 8:02 am

    A pity Joyce was not taught how to use apostrophes correctly back in the ’60s and ’70s!

    Reply
  109. vsv -  July 3, 2011 - 7:41 am

    Many a year ago I was taught that two complete ideas, with subject and verb of course, could be linked together by a comma; however, if a comma appeared in either of the two parts of that sentence, then a semi-colon had to separate the two. It’s a sort of one-ups-manship in punctuation. The same applies with a quotation inside of a quotation; single quotation marks frame in the quotation being quoted along with other words, thus one-ups-manship. By the way MANY A WRITER is singular; MANY WRITERS is plural

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  110. Mary -  July 3, 2011 - 7:16 am

    Ilove the semicolon….I use it otherwise I would have lots of short sentences all bout the same topic. Its great and lets the reader take a longer breath than a comma.

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  111. Jen -  July 3, 2011 - 6:45 am

    Gotta love a world where this much attention is paid to the discussion of the semi-colon.

    I love it too; it’s somehow connected directly to how English is spoken.

    I’m currently living in Indonesia and studying their language. The Indonesians have little punctuation and their words/ sentences are spoken is a virtual monotone.

    I love the way punctuation helps us “hear” the sentence as we read it; the semi-colon is one of the most useful elements in that regard.

    I’ve got a splitter headache or I would have read ALL of these comments instead of only half of them. But can I ask the powers that be to do a session on it’s and its. One of my pet peeves when marking school or even university essays. I spotted three writers in this discussion using the wrong one.

    Thanks a squillion; made my day!

    Reply
  112. Philine Kleinknecht -  July 3, 2011 - 6:34 am

    I personally like to use the semikolon in German to enhance the rather close connection of two sentences or points , on the other side to signalize there is a new step of thinking and some difference between two or more thoughts. Like in other languages there is the also danger the semikolon to be neglected by young people or to be totally dying out, maybe, the Greek term itself is too difficult and elaborated for some people. I have to admit sometimes it might be eleganter and easier for the reader to mark a new thought by a thick dot. The trend to shorter sentences ending with a dot is remarkable, influenced by the media like tv… and the oral speech.
    In German we use the : symbol (Doppelpunt) only to explain a point or to mark the conclusion of a statement in the sense: id est, that means, the following details, examples or so on. As German I often wonder about the use of the : symbol in English texts. When an entire sentence is following, the first letter of the sentence has to be a capital one in our language, in English it doesn’t seem to be usual?

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  113. Paul -  July 3, 2011 - 4:00 am

    I love the semicolon in principle but am far happier with its brother the colon.

    (Incidentally, I’d be interested to know how the distinction between ‘period’ (American version) and ‘full stop’ (British form) came about.)

    Reply
  114. Lolface -  July 3, 2011 - 3:34 am

    i knew how to use a semi colon at the age of eleven – my year six teacher told me how to use it. i use it all the time now

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  115. Ian -  July 2, 2011 - 11:30 pm

    I’ve never avoided the semicolon. Having said that, there have been very few occasions where I have actually needed to use one. I don’t think the semicolon could be entirely replaced by the period however, because the period signifies the end of a thought, which usually, but not always, comes with the ending of a sentence. When a single thought cannot be contained in a single sentence, then the semicolon becomes a necessary device of clarification.

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  116. rankinbass -  July 2, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    the semicolon doomed me on my SAT’s; that’s why I have this crummy job at radio shack, and not one as a scientist. damn you semicolon, damn you to hell.

    Reply
  117. Maggie -  July 2, 2011 - 10:12 pm

    I love the semi-colon! It’s a favorite punctuation of mine. It’s silly to think that people fear it.

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  118. Gordon -  July 2, 2011 - 9:41 pm

    It should be used when a comma is insufficient and a full stop is too much.

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  119. sacredchao -  July 2, 2011 - 9:29 pm

    Interesting: I started Virginia Woolfe’s Mrs. Dalloway today, and, noticing the many semi-colons, have had them on my mind all day. Quite the coincidence.

    At a reading I attended, John Irving told us that when he was a student at the Writers’ Workshop, Vonnegut crossed out the dot of one of his semi-colons and wrote “You don’t need this to prove you went to college.”

    Reply
  120. Roy Mustang -  July 2, 2011 - 8:49 pm

    @ Beveryl: I like the way you use the semicolon; it’s unique.
    @ Richard Durst: I agree with you.

    Reply
  121. Rei Real -  July 2, 2011 - 8:28 pm

    Semi colon is used in Compound and Compund-Complex sentences. The rule governing it seems way too complicated for students. It’s a struggle to teach its use because we almost end up composing run-on sentences. Just sharing.

    Reply
  122. Barkhurdar -  July 2, 2011 - 6:30 pm

    In contracts, semi-colons are used to list various independent options whereby each of the options can tie separately to form a complete sentence. See the following example.

    I elect to receive: (notice the colon here signifies a list to follow)
    [ ] Only electronic statements;
    [ ] Only paper statement; or
    [ ] Both electronic and paper statements.

    Reply
  123. Tralee -  July 2, 2011 - 5:15 pm

    A small point of correction.

    Quote: “Mathematics makes great use of the colon primarily in relation to ratios – 2:1 (two to one),” end quote.

    In Mathematics, the symbol ‘ : ‘ is read ‘ is to ‘ therefore the example should be — 2:1 (two is to one).

    And, I have illustrated another use for the colon in quoting.

    Px

    Reply
  124. Leifgreen -  July 2, 2011 - 1:59 pm

    I use the semicolon all the time, such as in the sentences: “I love going to college; it’s so fun gaining a college education!” or “The homework isn’t so great; it’s hard and lasts long hours.” I mostly use it to link the ideas of sentences together when one reinforces or describes the other. My Writing & Grammar textbook describes the allowance of this usage. Of course, there are several other uses for the semicolon, but all in all my opinion is that we should keep it in our set of punctuation marks. I find it useful, besides the fact that it is mostly necessary to have it in lists whose items already contain commas, not to separate, but to describe the items. Such an example is this: “I fed Buddy, my husky; Billy, my bulldog; and Janey, my pit bull.” Notice the that commas set off the phrases that describe each dog, while semicolons set off each individual dog in the list.

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  125. London Breathewaite -  July 2, 2011 - 1:50 pm

    I use the semi colon often; properly, it must be used properly.

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  126. IKE -  July 2, 2011 - 1:36 pm

    I love using semicolons because of how they link things together and help with sentence flow. Yet somehow they mostly end up in smileys (such as ;D) instead of actual writing. Semicolons do have a point – right above the comma, that is.

    I hate seeing them used incorrectly (may I point out that many off the people commenting have been using them wrong?) You don’t put “and” or any other conjunction after a semicolon any more than you would put one at the beginning of a sentence. Then again, maybe I’m being overly picky; as an amateur writer, I love most things having to do with words. Using correct grammar is one of my most deeply-set habits.

    …Of course, this infuriates anyone who texts me since they have to wait five minutes for a handful of grammatically-correct sentences with proper spelling and capitalization.

    Reply
  127. Joann -  July 2, 2011 - 1:33 pm

    I use the semi-colons. :D My 9th grade teacher has always told us that semi-colons are sexy!

    Reply
  128. Briana -  July 2, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    I use it a lot, I love semicolons :D
    I mostly use it to link sentences.

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  129. Mom Kat -  July 2, 2011 - 12:52 pm

    Some would say that I use the semi-colon far too often; I find it a very useful symbol of puncuation…I also probably use “…” far to often; typically because I could go on and on about the topic.

    Reply
  130. Crimefighter -  July 2, 2011 - 11:06 am

    Semicolons are for breaking up lists that have groups where several commas and ANDs are used but shouldn’t be broken up into separate sentences. Also good for sentence fragments where the comma is incorrectly used.

    Reply
  131. Tim -  July 2, 2011 - 10:30 am

    I treated grammar with irreverence in my formative years. Now that I am older and wiser, I make it a point to revisit those inchoate definitions. The usage of punctuations is first and foremost in importance for me; to know these symbols is to know your culture. Ultimately, if one knows the semicolon: dichotomy and discrimination are made clear.

    Reply
  132. Dr. Canavanine -  July 2, 2011 - 9:50 am

    I love ;. I employ it between two strongly connected thoughts; it also permits avoidance of boring and. I prefer and when I am writing about a series of entities rather than connecting two thoughts. I believe that there was a which used in your explanation that should have been a that.

    Reply
  133. Eliza S -  July 2, 2011 - 9:19 am

    I have had the pleasure of using the colon in my essays, however, the semicolon always befuddled me; it was not until my English professor cleared up the mystery and fully encouraged us to use the semicolon, but he said not to abuse it; this is when I began sprinkle it not only within my essays—but in my creative writing as well.

    Reply
  134. oceanspan -  July 2, 2011 - 9:18 am

    I use the semi colon all the time; it separates multiple email addresses in the same “To:” area.

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  135. Nicolas -  July 2, 2011 - 9:02 am

    I use it strictly as a period that connects two sentences more than a mere period would. And that’s indeed the only appropriate use of semicolons. In French, they’re called “period-commas”, and that makes far more sense, since the semicolon really has nothing to do with colons, but with periods and commas.

    Reply
  136. ibehim1 -  July 2, 2011 - 8:56 am

    I love it when I am writing and I all of a sudden realize: I can use a colon there!

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  137. candy -  July 2, 2011 - 8:14 am

    i use the semi colons to list things mostly! other than that i do aviod it at all cost including when i write papers for class.

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  138. Cici -  July 2, 2011 - 6:24 am

    Not using a fullstop or a coma can make a difference but semi colon hardly matters.

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  139. Joyce -  July 2, 2011 - 5:47 am

    I’ve never had an issue with either the semicolon or colon. I accurately use both of them all the time. Perhaps I’m showing my age and the proper/appropriate use was better taught in grammer class back in my day (60′s/70′s).

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  140. Clint -  July 2, 2011 - 4:55 am

    If only grammar counted as much as it once did in society when applying for a positon with a company; linguiphiles might all have better positions as a result of knowing proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

    When “it’s” is used in place of “its,” or “there” used in place of “their,” or the apostrophe rearing its ugly head where it does not apply preceding every word ending with an ‘s’ on signage all across the nation, we may best be served by cracking open a Berlitz or Rosetta Stone course in the language of the nation that will overrun ours (choose one)!

    Compared to the aforementioned ubiquitous ‘peanut butter and jelly’ infractions of punctuation, the proper usage of the semicolon is on a par with caviar. How to teach the offending hordes with so little time left before the b’ak’tun?

    For all this discussion, a couple of lines from “The Desiderata” come to mind: “Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.”

    Yet there’s no reason for the “dull and ignorant” not to know proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation in telling their story, is there? Proper education is available to any willing to earn it.

    To all: See Russ Richards’ post of June 28th for definitive usage of the semicolon.

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  141. Peter J. Fusco -  July 2, 2011 - 3:45 am

    Carpenters have their tools: measuring tape, saw, hammer; writers do as well: comma, colon, semicolon. I use them as often as they are required to structure what I want to say precisely the way I want to say it. Then again, you could pull a Samuel Beckett and write a novel without any punctuation; never liked the guy for that reason among others, and thought “How It Is” a self-indulgent, whining waste of his time and mine.

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  142. Nelson -  July 2, 2011 - 2:04 am

    I use semicolon a lot as it serves well to link two sentence structures together to make one point. While a period serves the purpose as well, the semicolon allow me to feel the connection easier. I use colon less than semicolon; normally I’d only use colon in representing multiple items/reasons into a sentence (which I don’t really do often unless listing is needed), while I use semicolon mostly for continuity/elaboration in writing.

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  143. lily. -  July 2, 2011 - 1:04 am

    I love semicolons; they’re brilliant.
    I didn’t know there were people who avoid using them…

    Reply
  144. Jan -  July 2, 2011 - 12:31 am

    Semicolons make me feel cool.

    Reply
  145. Scotty Worley -  July 2, 2011 - 12:22 am

    I am not able to see why George Orwell hated the semicolon as much as he did. The semicolon is a phenomenal thing to use, especially in essays where one is trying to maintain a format yet still wants to insert another idea. Since the idea usually relates to one of the other previous commentary sentences under the body topic sentence, it is a great choice to use the semicolon to hold form.
    The semicolon can also be used to denote a pause of medium length: not short like a comma, or long such as a period – the length is just right.
    Most importantly, the semicolon is used to link ideas; often times, similar thoughts flow together and it’s nice to keep them in the same sentence but it’s important to note that they are two different thoughts.
    Semicolons are brilliant =)
    Ace

    Reply
  146. Glenn Nobody -  July 2, 2011 - 12:08 am

    I love the semicolon

    Reply
  147. David -  July 1, 2011 - 11:48 pm

    I use a semicolon to connect two sentences together in a paragraph. For instance, the first sentence is related to the paragraph, but the second sentence only makes sense to be included with the first sentence because it only describes the first sentence, not the rest of the paragraph. It’s easier and makes more sense to use a semicolon rather than start a new paragraph with just two sentences.

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  148. vergulito -  July 1, 2011 - 11:02 pm

    I think it is actually simple and logical. To me is a longer comma, the semicolon separates ideas, groups of items of the same kind. For example:

    “…it included vegetables like tomato, cellery, spinach; meats like beef, poultry, fish; minerals like salt; and other miscellaneous items”

    Reply
  149. Natalia H.-B -  July 1, 2011 - 10:05 pm

    Also, when using a semi-colon you are basically continuing a sentence. If you use a period you are usually changing the subject.

    Reply
  150. Natalia H.-B -  July 1, 2011 - 9:57 pm

    well, personaly, i believe a semi-colon should be used when wanting to add something to a sentence. i use it all the time. a colon is cool too. like the article said it relates to math, rather HELPS in math and many other things such as ( again as the article said) listing specific things, objects, people.

    Reply
  151. Tnigz -  July 1, 2011 - 8:51 pm

    Hey, my name is Tnigz, I used a punctuation to do your mom last night.

    Reply
  152. WS -  July 1, 2011 - 8:48 pm

    Kurt Vonnegut certainly had no use for the semicolon; and so it goes.

    Reply
  153. MUSLIM -  July 1, 2011 - 7:58 pm

    THE SEMICOLON IN OPERATION:

    Ignorance is not bliss either; and so you must study the history of the Qur’an, the challenge within the Qur’an to produce a book like it; how it is alleged that Muhammad(saws) copied from Jewish, Christian, Greek and other sources, and yet the Qur’an challenges the reader who doubts it to synthesize a composition in the manner they allege the Qur’an to be written that rivals it in the Arabic language. Can you perform such a feat?

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  154. Nick -  July 1, 2011 - 7:49 pm

    I do not use that semicolon thingy very often, but it is kinda nice to have something available in the English language to link up closely related clauses. In a sense, such clauses could be thought of as “clausal items”, similar to how semicolons are used to separate a list of items. The semicolon gets my vote.

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  155. Jassayin -  July 1, 2011 - 6:08 pm

    Actually the semi colon and the colon dont scare me, in fact i love them.
    I think that when using the semi colon “;” its basically describing a previous point before it. And this semi colon “:” is stating what you were saying means . And the comma well everyone knows whats that for; unless you’ve completely missed out on school, then i’d rather not explain.

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  156. Maddy Stewart -  July 1, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    I deffinatly think the semicolon is worth while, its a fluid pause, and conveys a totally different meaning, just look at the play W;t its entirely about the semicolon making the difference. Conicidentally, my friend got a tattoo of a semicolin on her ankle today

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  157. Mel -  July 1, 2011 - 5:47 pm

    To CARLITOS:

    The semicolon: is it the most maddening and mysterious punctuation mark?

    The original text HAS a colon, not a semi-colon. So what is your point?

    Secondly, your criticism regarding “many a writer” is unclear. Perhaps you meant to write that it should be written as: “Many writers avoid it altogether.”

    If you’re going to criticise the site, perhaps you should get your facts right, and express yourself more clearly.

    Reply
  158. Deets -  July 1, 2011 - 4:15 pm

    I use the semi-colon frequently; it helps to link concepts.

    But, I do take a little umbrage at the suggestion that a comma is somehow “in” the semi-colon and that, that comma denotes a pause.

    Commas do not necessarily denote a pause, but a separation between two items and it aids in understanding context by grouping words, phrases and clauses in the way that they do.

    The pause is a natural outgrowth of mentally grouping those items and then compartmentalizing the next groups. So although a pause almost always occurs with a comma, a comma is NOT a textual marker for a pause. If that were true, many sentences, would be written with extra commas, and that just would not make sense.

    (All punctuation placed incorrectly in the above passage is intentional.)

    Reply
  159. Mister Grammarian -  July 1, 2011 - 3:23 pm

    I have used the semicolon as described above: When used instead of a period between two sentences, the semicolon links the two and lets the reader know that both sentences have a stronger relationship to each other than the sentences around them.

    Semicolons may be used to abbreviate the second principal clause by omitting the common phrase when the clauses are similar. The omitted common phrase is implied from the first principal clause. Example: When the sum of the dice is even, the player wins; when (the sum of the dice is) odd, he loses. Note: The expression in the parentheses is the omitted common phrase.

    I also use semicolons to emphasize the principal clause by specifying a relation using a pair of superlatives after the semicolon. Example: I love spicy food; the hotter, the better.

    Another usage for semicolons is as an alternate delimiter between delimiters. Example: The colors of the American, Canadian and Mexican flags, respectively, are as follows: red, white and blue; red and white; and green, white and red.

    Reply
  160. Book Beater -  July 1, 2011 - 2:38 pm

    It always amazes me how so many college educated people with multiple degrees can be such atrocious spellers, while visiting a dictionary thread page. Tighten up , we fast food rejects need something to look up to not laugh at.

    Reply
  161. Thunder -  July 1, 2011 - 2:29 pm

    What do you mean the semicolon is pointless? I use semicolons all the time; they are quite useful.

    Reply
  162. clong_diver -  July 1, 2011 - 2:10 pm

    I for one love the use of the ; character and find it under-rated and it’s implementation misunderstood. I find it very useful in stopping a sentence, yet continuing a thought process through a seemingly dissimilar statement which supports, or modifies the first statement. Thus carrying the reader through your line of thinking of how you established the first statement as true, viable, etc…

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  163. Doug Enick -  July 1, 2011 - 1:59 pm

    I read the comments as far as Gary Chow, who expressed my thoughts perfectly: “I reckon the semicolon is the most under appreciated punctuation mark in all of English grammar. It’s useful for joining sentences when a full stop offers too big a pause and a comma too brief.”

    I also use the semicolon in lists containing items that are expressed in phrases.

    Reply
  164. Andrea Justine -  July 1, 2011 - 1:51 pm

    @ saad: Never used it; never plan to use it in the future.

    Reply
  165. Hugh B -  July 1, 2011 - 1:01 pm

    Java programmers or C programmers cannot make a living without it!

    Reply
  166. Anthony -  July 1, 2011 - 1:01 pm

    Most people don’t know how to write anyway and use gramar notations, or anything they are though in school unless they write for a living and know how to use professionally reguardless of career profession.

    Reply
  167. Hammer -  July 1, 2011 - 12:14 pm

    @Maurice – Please let us know any words you have difficulties pronouncing; we’ll all mark them out of our dictionaries. If you want to learn English, please do; just don’t expect it to change because you can’t figure it out.

    Reply
  168. Lauren -  July 1, 2011 - 11:59 am

    i have attempted to use it many times, but im a bit paranoid of using it wrong so i usually steer clear of it

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  169. Lionkat -  July 1, 2011 - 11:17 am

    “These violent delights have violent ends
    And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
    Which, as they kiss, consume.”

    definately need a colon or semi; somewhere!

    Reply
  170. Kelly Jones -  July 1, 2011 - 11:02 am

    I use the semicolon, most often in conjuction with a colon, in cases where a list of single words or sentance fragments might be confusing or otherwise ill advised when seperated by a comma, as a way to emphasize a point. It is important in this sense that the structure before the colon be a complete sentance. I rarely use a semicolon to link to thoughts as a conjuctive. I think it is okay to do so, to avoid run on sentances when multiple structures are desired to bring power to a thought. It is important in this case that each word structure be a complete sentance. I have seen it otherwise, but find it annoying.

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  171. Jyme Bale -  July 1, 2011 - 10:51 am

    If you have attened a college or university and have taken enough English writing classes you are taught how and when to use the colon and semi-colon. Some are talented enough to understand with out a lot of education. All of my professors stated that the way in which each are used are hip one year and not the next, or, they are used a slight bit differently each year. I could not believe I was hearing this from a professor either. It was suggested I keep my grammer/punctuation book and use the marks as I saw fit. I do use them all the time. I have asked many other professors since and received the same answer.
    I’m so glad there are so many views and so many have so much to say, it is wonderful. Most people in general do not know how to punctuate at all unfortunetly, they either were not taught correctly or, just did not pay attention and it is a very simple process. I do know there are sites on the net which give correct instruction. Thanks very much.

    Reply
  172. Maurice -  July 1, 2011 - 10:33 am

    Since English is not my first language, punctuation is not my strength, so my opinion is “Let’s get rid of semi-colons”.

    Reply
  173. Jen -  July 1, 2011 - 10:11 am

    I often use the semi colon when writing up scientific articles; in fact microsoft word corrects my writing and insists that I use a semicolon.

    Reply
  174. Greg -  July 1, 2011 - 8:54 am

    I use a semicolon when my wordcheck; tells me I need one.

    Reply
  175. John Boyer -  July 1, 2011 - 8:45 am

    It’s been mentioned a couple of times that semicolon is also used as a supercomma, but some better examples are needed. Clive Cussler used it in a recent book as a true supercomma in a list. There was a list of people in the room, where each person was from some special agency. The list went like this: Jim from Department of A, B and C; Jane from Association of D, E and F; and Tom from X, Y, Z and Associates. Since each list item needed commas within, the list itself was separated by supercommas. On the other hand, my daughter used semicolons this way on a paper in a university course, and got a low mark because the prof did not know about this use of semicolons. She requested it be re-marked because, it turns out, he was a computer science professor, and they only seem to know how to put semicolons after each line of code in a computer program. Few in computing realize that they’re actually using a supercomma *between* lines of code that can contain commas to separate function parameters. They think the semicolon goes afterward because the computer languages allow the empty statement, so the semicolon after the last non-empty line of code is actually between it and what the language parser sees as an empty line of code.

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  176. TLM80209 -  July 1, 2011 - 8:39 am

    “Do you ever use the semicolon or do you avoid it at all costs?” I avoid using both the colon, but especially the semicolon, because I didn’t understand their proper use. Perhaps I will use them now. Thanks.

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  177. Sam Williams -  July 1, 2011 - 8:37 am

    No, there isn’t a chance in the world I would use a semi-colon. At university–two Bahelor’s degrees and a Master’s–I never lost a point off of a paper or essay for not using a semi-colon. And never, apparently, did I ever use one correctly, either: They were always crossed out, sometimes snidely, and sometimes at a cost to my eventual score! The higher education system taight me that semi-colons are simply a metaphorical land mine, to be avoided at all cost!

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  178. pappapol -  July 1, 2011 - 7:57 am

    i only use the semicolon to impress someone.

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  179. Laurie Frazier -  July 1, 2011 - 7:15 am

    I love the semicolon! I teach English, and the first thing I always ask my students (8th graders) is how many of them don’t use the semicolon because they don’t know how. Most of the class usually raises their hands! I then teach them how to use it and explain that it adds maturity to their writing. After that, we are on a mission to appreciate the underappreciated semicolon! Love it!! ;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

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  180. Gerry Malon -  July 1, 2011 - 6:48 am

    Fred is right to highlight the role of the humble semicolon in the world of programming:an essential tool in imposing order on virtual chaos. Brother Colon is fixed and focussed: he does not lend himself to repetition. Sister Semicolon is the queen of multi-tasking: fluid and versatile; assigning discrete tasks in logical flows; relating those tasks to one another as links in a chain; simultaneously providing an endless source of frustration and delight. You’re right: I should get a life!

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  181. Annette Larkins -  July 1, 2011 - 5:26 am

    I use the semicolon all the time to connect related sentences. I don’t find it to be a problem; it certainly adds variety.

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  182. TM -  July 1, 2011 - 2:43 am

    the semicolon – I must use it quite a bit, now that I know what to call it! (Previous to this I use to call it the ‘comma with the dot thing’)!
    I also like to use exclamation marks I’m told!!! :-)

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  183. michael schuermann -  July 1, 2011 - 2:25 am

    Kurt Vonnegut called them “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing”, and using them only showed that “you had been to college”.
    I am not sure whether that says it all, but it says it well enough for me.

    Reply
  184. Dee -  July 1, 2011 - 1:58 am

    I love using the semi colon;I use it when I can!

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  185. Bobby Choppy -  July 1, 2011 - 1:46 am

    I use semicolons so much it makes my friends angry because they swear I over use them; I promise I don’t!

    But really, I think they’re primarily for creative writing; and it makes you feel a little more expressive personally because the fact most people avoid it gives those who do a distinct voice in their writing.

    Reply
  186. Tomasn Kattackal -  June 30, 2011 - 11:49 pm

    As a preacher and writer I need to use semicolons profusely. While I list a number of verses. Many cases verses happen to be from the same book.

    eg: John 3:16, 18; James 1:5,8; 1 Pet 3:10.

    The verses from the same book or chapter are grouped by semicolons;

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  187. Rustgold -  June 30, 2011 - 11:37 pm

    To those commenting on the grammar in Carlitos’s first post; he was only saying the exact phrase that the blog author used.
    Quote : “Many a writer avoids it altogether”

    Btw: It should be, “Many writers avoid it altogether.”

    Reply
  188. DT -  June 30, 2011 - 11:35 pm

    The four of us: Tom; Dick; Mary; and Rebecca seem to use this to express our writing the words of poetic pain.

    - Is this a correct usage? LMK.

    Reply
  189. Shrapnel -  June 30, 2011 - 11:33 pm

    I enjoy using semi-colons. The first commenter misused it though; if you use a semi-colon, you don’t need to say “because”.

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  190. Arvil Armedilla -  June 30, 2011 - 11:09 pm

    I prefer using semicolons rather than periods because I do not like cutting my ideas; though, I quite don’t know how to use them and my professors tell me to avoid it, I still use them.

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  191. intx -  June 30, 2011 - 8:25 pm

    I daresay I do use the semicolon frequently; it is a most precious thing.

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  192. Lynn -  June 30, 2011 - 8:00 pm

    My favorite bit of punctuation.

    Not my most-used, of course, but certainly my favorite.

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  193. Jaila -  June 30, 2011 - 7:50 pm

    They scares people? That’s weird… I’ve been using them since I learned what they were…

    Hey, does that make me somewhere close to intelligent? XD

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  194. Sandiver -  June 30, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    Just as mathematics needs its hierarchy of (parentheses), [brackets], and those things I call {handle-bar mustaches}, so does the written word occasionally need semi-colons to delineate a list of items subdivided by commas.
    How many people are coming to Mae’s party?
    Mae asked both her parents, Pat and Chris, three cousins, Al, Jo, and Kim, her two roommates, Beth and Amy, and her sister Meg.
    With just commas, she is asking anywhere from 8 to 15 people. With semicolons, you know exactly.
    Mae asked both her parents, Pat and Chris; three of her cousins, Al, Jo, and Kim; her two roommates, Lynn and Joy; and her sister Mary.
    Sometimes context makes it obvious and the semi-colon is pompous; sometimes you might have too much food.

    Reply
  195. Steven Kapros -  June 30, 2011 - 6:24 pm

    Ah, the semicolon…
    It’s not very maddening, it’s just likely that I’ll never use it.
    The only time I had to use the semicolon was when I was in the 7th grade. My English teacher wanted me to write a paper with two or more semicolons in it, and she didn’t allow me to leave the classroom until I had done just that. *Thanks a lot Ms. Wayland* Of course, I just slapped some crud on the paper so I could leave, but I never did learn how to use the semicolon.

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  196. Emily K -  June 30, 2011 - 6:09 pm

    Semi-colons are for winners! I use them ALL the time, from winky faces to journal entries in school. Semi-colons are the best! ;)

    Reply
  197. Tiffany -  June 30, 2011 - 5:28 pm

    I am an avid fan of the semicolon; it is one of my favorite forms of punctuation.

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  198. Alex. -  June 30, 2011 - 5:06 pm

    I use it quite often at work. I work in transportation, and when I have to list a bunch of cities and their states, I make use of the semicolon to avoid a mess of commas.

    For example, I might say to one of our terminals:

    I have a customer requesting a rates for Houston, TX; Greenville, SC; Henderson, KY; Augusta, GA; and Riverside, CA. Would you be interested?

    Not sure if it’s 100% acceptable, but I seemed to remember something about it from Middle School.

    I also use it quite often in programming languages where it usually serves to terminate a line of code.

    Reply
  199. lizette -  June 30, 2011 - 3:56 pm

    wow,this is a weird topic altogether

    Reply
  200. Nitya -  June 30, 2011 - 3:52 pm

    Re the use of ‘avoids’.
    One “avoids’; many ‘avoid’. That is how the verb and subject should be matched.

    Reply
  201. fred -  June 30, 2011 - 3:49 pm

    I use the semi colon often to connect two incomplete sentences. I use incomplete sentences for effect and when I want to be very informal in personal letters or emails.
    I was not forced to learn grammar in elementary school. I think the teachers skimmed over the subject. I like the semi colon; don’t you?

    Reply
  202. Daniel Horvath -  June 30, 2011 - 3:32 pm

    Hey, Carlitos . . . Though “many a writer” is plural, per se, it refers to the individual members of the group and not all of the taken together, so it would, in fact, be avoids, and not avoid. Can’t you tell be reading the sentence aloud? Better luck next time . . .

    Reply
  203. Marty -  June 30, 2011 - 3:25 pm

    I use it when necessary to link to sentences that have a strong relationship to each other, very much as I might use a comma where there is a phrase needed to better describe something but when that phrase has a noun and a verb and an object. Such as:

    Johnny was showing off today; he was throwing the ball as far as he could in hopes he could go pick it up next to a group of teenage girls.

    Reply
  204. stacey -  June 30, 2011 - 3:19 pm

    I’ve learned that the semi-colon means, “that is”. I think this can help some understand the semi-colon’s usage.

    Reply
  205. Jasmine -  June 30, 2011 - 2:54 pm

    The semicolon has been my favorite punctuation mark for years; I’ve actually even been told that I tend to use it in almost every text message I send (which are always grammatically correct). I think that it is the most underestimated and underappreciated of any of the punctuation marks. As an English/Creative Writing major, I have never been able to understand why people are afraid of it; I edited a novel by my history teacher when I was in eleventh-twelfth grade, and I was constantly combining sentences with semicolons. I think it helps with the flow of the piece by making it sound smoother when reading; too many periods in a row makes it sound robotic and jarring.

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  206. Elaine -  June 30, 2011 - 2:48 pm

    I never use it……..when I want to relate a thought……..I did what I just did………make dots.

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  207. Jessica -  June 30, 2011 - 2:42 pm

    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.

    -Kurt Vonnegut

    Reply
  208. Kelly B -  June 30, 2011 - 2:38 pm

    I use the semicolon a lot, it’s usually used in books to show that the two portions of the sentence to either side of the semicolon could be their own sentences.

    Reply
  209. Ruth Lindsay -  June 30, 2011 - 2:18 pm

    I learned to use a semi-colon to link two related clauses, but only when the second clause is incomplete. That is, when the second clause could not stand on its own as a complete sentence. I have found this to be a valuable rule of thumb, as it prevents semi-colon loving me from over-using this wonderful punctuation mark!

    Reply
  210. Matthew -  June 30, 2011 - 2:07 pm

    I was expecting to see some subtle usage of the semicolon within this article; seems like a wasted opportunity to me.

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  211. kb -  June 30, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    Personally, I love the semicolon. It is a huge help. I am a writer, and semicolons are by no means absent from my work; in fact, I use them almost daily!

    Reply
  212. workingonit -  June 30, 2011 - 12:53 pm

    I learned in a “Structure of Language” course that the English language was originally written withallwordsstrungtogetherlikethisandnobreaksbetweenthewordsmuchlessanypunctuation. With that in mind, it’s easy to see the value of the “modern conveniences” of various sorts of breaks and other grouping marks—not only space characters and end-of-sentence punctuation, but also interior punctuation such as commas, semicolons, parentheses and dashes.

    The purpose of punctuation, after all, is to convey in writing the meaning that, in speech, would be communicated through pauses, inflection and body language. Therefore, we use punctuation to indicate the various types of pauses and to group together (i.e., separate from the rest of the sentence) the various units of meaning.

    Many people here are parroting their grammar-school teachers, who—if they taught semicolon usage at all—presented it in terms of the simple patterns of sentence construction typical of very young writers. Thus we have the commonly expressed idea that its only use is to join two simple sentences in lieu of a conjunction.

    Sentences written by mature writers are often more complex. That complexity sometimes requires that a semicolon be used in additional capacities, such as these:

    1) When using a conjunction to create a compound sentence from independent clauses which contain commas of their own, a semicolon (rather than a comma) should precede the conjunction. If a comma were used, its significance would be lost: because of the other commas in the sentence, it no longer suffices as demarcation between the independent clauses.

    2) For the same reason, when one or more of the independent clauses contains other conjunctions (particularly “and”), a semicolon should be used in joining them.

    3) This is also the reason to use semicolons to delimit items on a list, where one or more of those items contains a comma.

    Even someone who prefers to avoid semicolons, opting instead to restructure his sentences, will find that this is not always possible. In quoting from spoken words, for example, wholesale restructuring of sentences is not advisable. Depending on the complexity of the speaker’s style, semicolons may be required.

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  213. Mike -  June 30, 2011 - 12:49 pm

    I used to fear the colon and refuse to use the semicolon. Somewhere along the way, my teachers gave me the intestinal fortitude to use them both, and now I use them with regularity in my writing.

    Reply
  214. patricia -  June 30, 2011 - 12:39 pm

    After reading this post, I completely forgot the word I came looking for a definition for. Shoot.

    Reply
  215. Marcus -  June 30, 2011 - 12:34 pm

    The semicolon is like a boning knife (in the kitchen) or an acetylene welding torch (in the garage). Using it properly demonstrates a high level of competence with a craft.

    Reply
  216. Melisa -  June 30, 2011 - 12:30 pm

    I am not a prolific writer; yet i like to write. Did I do that right? I have never used a semicolon with confidence in my life; I don’t even know if I used it correctly in the last sentence or this one.

    Reply
  217. Melisa -  June 30, 2011 - 12:29 pm

    I am not a prolific writer; yet i like. Did I do that right? I have never used a semicolon with confidence in my life; I don’t even know if I used it correctly in the last sentence or this one. :)

    Reply
  218. Em -  June 30, 2011 - 12:16 pm

    I use the colon, the semicolon, the three periods, the dash (hmm… is it only a hyphen when joining two words as opposed to two phrases?) and parentheses to add in asides or modifications. I wish there were more! I’d appreciate and use a greater variety of options to help make the language sing in the way we as audible speakers can raise and lower our voices, draw out our words… heck we can waggle our eyebrows and gesticulate if we wish. Even if I never used a colon myself, I’d never take a tool out of anyone’s toolbox just because it didn’t happen to be a tool I personally used.
    By the way, when I was being taught grammar and punctuation in school we were taught that one should capitalize the first letter following a colon. I haven’t bothered to look it up since, but as I recall, our texts formalized that rule. Is it possible it only applies when the bit following the colon is a stand-alone sentence or a list? It has been a long time…

    Reply
  219. Jessica -  June 30, 2011 - 12:05 pm

    I use semicolons all the time, I just can’t think of an example to use right now!
    They are also great for making winky faces ;)

    Reply
  220. Nicolas Hampton -  June 30, 2011 - 12:01 pm

    The semi-colon, it seems, has gotten a bad wrap in creative writing courses and workshops over the years. Its ability to link two complete, separate statements in an equal relationship to one another can be, and has proven itself very useful to the expression of surrealism and Buddhist philosophy. Cognitive leaps in poetry discussed by Robert Bly in his book ‘Leaping Poetry’ could gain a valuable tool in the semi-colon, as it allows an image to be represented by two different perspectives of the mind equally. Take for instance T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, ‘In A Station Of The Metro’:

    THE apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    The entire focus of the poem hinges on the semi-colon’s ability to connect the natural to the modern! So, before anyone discounts a very important punctuation mark from our future literature when it has such a significant presence in our past, lets treat it with the same action we should be imposing on the ellipse: reeducation and restraint. Two complete, separate sentences can be linked by a semi-colon to indicate an unforeseen relationship between the two. Unforeseen being a key word, casual relation can be inferred.

    And for God’s sake people, stop using ellipsis to indicate a pause, it makes you look like a 4th grader! They’re used to indicate omitted text, usually as the result of a vocal rambling. If you want a pause, use a caesura.

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  221. Dick -  June 30, 2011 - 11:20 am

    I use semicolon in a list to separate things that are more closely related to each other from the rest of the list, and i suppose also when the two parts of the sentence could be seens as independent sentences. I don’t really think about it, i use it when i feel like it and it feels right.

    Reply
  222. Anel Vadren -  June 30, 2011 - 10:46 am

    Frequently I utilize the semicolon; ’tis very useful for me.

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  223. Silverchild -  June 30, 2011 - 10:34 am

    If it is of any interest, the semicolon is used in Greek as a question mark. The colon has the same use.

    Reply
  224. English teacher -  June 30, 2011 - 10:18 am

    The semi colon is a beautiful thing! You can use it interupt a thought and not get penalized by the instructor, such as… I wanted to walk; I decided to run instead. See; beautiful!

    Another use is when you don’t know what punctuation to use, such as… I understand the concepts; I don’t understand the ideas.

    Reply
  225. LB -  June 30, 2011 - 10:14 am

    I use the semicolon rarely; but I wonder why the article didn’t state using the colon before listing things. Like, “When you go to the grocery store, be sure to pick up the following: eggs, grapes, cheese, etc.” Oh well, good article.

    Reply
  226. Entr' acte -  June 30, 2011 - 10:12 am

    Like anything else, if its not used, it gets lost. A semi-colon is another form of our english language usage that is not lost on those that like to express they have some education and paid attention in class.

    Any writer who cant see the wisdom in getting across the true picture of words is one who does it more with profanity instead.
    Needless to say, I use it often–when the need of its use is apparent.

    Reply
  227. Klorix -  June 30, 2011 - 10:10 am

    I love the semicolon!
    Although it is not always easy to use – especially the ‘when’ to use it –, I like to use it. I do so sparingly: I don’t want it to lose its ‘specialness’.
    It is great when you need to separate clauses in very long sentences or when you need to enumerate items that also have commas.
    On the other hand, linking two sentences using the semicolon happens much less frequently, because in such cases I need to really think about how strong the link is between the two sentences and those around. It is much easier to simply use a period.

    I use it equally in English, German and French. Fortunately, it has the same meaning in all three languages; although the frequency differs. In my opinion, French likes the semicolon best, German least (it uses loads of commas instead).

    So far my thoughts on the semicolon. Thanks for writing about it!

    Reply
  228. Rosemary Corrigan -  June 30, 2011 - 9:48 am

    The apostrophe is the most misunderstood punctuation mark. Just read the comments that go with this article. Most folks use the apostrophe like pepper. They just sprinkle some into a sentence and they land wherever they land.

    Reply
  229. AttyMan -  June 30, 2011 - 9:19 am

    Let us not forget the most important use of the semicolon: a crying emoticon.

    ;_;

    Reply
  230. King Viz -  June 30, 2011 - 8:50 am

    I use it (correctly) all the time; I’m good at English – if nothing else!

    Reply
  231. Bran -  June 30, 2011 - 8:37 am

    This is great. I love this website!!!

    Reply
  232. Peter O'Connor -  June 30, 2011 - 8:26 am

    I’m with Carlitos on this one: the grammar shown on these pages can be atrocious.

    Reply
  233. Karen -  June 30, 2011 - 8:24 am

    The construction of the phrase “many a writer” is idiomatic, and idioms do not obey the regular rules. Thus, “Many a writer avoids” is correct usage, though not technically, grammatically, correct.

    This is why English is so infuriating a language. It’s usually difficult to figure out which of the rules to apply when the most pertinent rules contradict one another. I was taught to trust my ear, but I’m old enough to have had several terms of instruction in grammar and usage while in junior high; also, I have studied more than one foreign (to me) language. I’ve learned more about English usage and grammar by studying the ways other languages work than I ever could have learned by studying English alone.

    Of course, nowadays, one cannot trust one’s ear, because almost no one uses the language correctly anymore. I see errors in the newspaper and hear errors on broadcasts (TV and radio) every hour. I find myself making errors while speaking that I’d never make on paper.

    Why does it matter? Because when a society’s members cannot communicate effectively and clearly with one another, they won’t be members of a society for long.

    Reply
  234. ngoc -  June 30, 2011 - 8:22 am

    nah i never use it, but i do sometimes and i would always think it doesn’t sound right :|

    Reply
  235. Elizabeth -  June 30, 2011 - 8:05 am

    I use it in my story/books that I write; I’ve never found trouble with it at all. :)

    Reply
  236. Matt -  June 30, 2011 - 5:53 am

    My favorite author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., wrote in his book “A Man Without a Country” wrote: “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.” I’m not saying that I share his opinion exactly, just his sense of humor. Enjoy!

    Reply
  237. Sandi -  June 30, 2011 - 5:24 am

    I LOVE the semi-colon! I use it all the time when I write. I am a speech-language pathologist, and when working on punctuation with students, I also impress on them the purpose and magnificence of the semi-colon!

    Reply
  238. BHon -  June 30, 2011 - 5:15 am

    Oh SNAP! Carlitos got told :-)

    Reply
  239. Flatlander -  June 30, 2011 - 4:56 am

    I do use the colon, most typically followed by a list of items denoted by bullets such as 1.,2., 3., or A. B. C. etc.

    In so far as a semicolon, suppose I too have a fear of using it, thus making me create my own kind of a semicolon which consists of a sting of periods, some number more than three………Which everyone knows is an ellipsis. This string of periods of four or more is always followed by an uppercase first letter just as you would begin any new stand alone sentence.

    Reply
  240. Han -  June 30, 2011 - 3:06 am

    I frequently use the semicolon. In fact I probably over use it. I do do a lot of creative writing and find it an effective method of making the sentences snappy and effective but allowing explanations to follow.
    Its a brilliant punctuation mark!

    Reply
  241. AX -  June 30, 2011 - 2:30 am

    I’ve made great use of it, especially when writing exaggeratedly long sentences.

    Reply
  242. Luck in W -  June 30, 2011 - 1:07 am

    @Carlitos

    Shouldn’t it be:

    ‘“The semicolon: is it the most maddening and mysterious punctuation mark?” A colon, not a semicolon should be used.’ I’m not sure to what you are referring. That sentence in the text is used exactly as you have. Maybe it’s been corrected since you saw it. This is June 30, 4:07 EDT.

    ““Many a writer avoids it altogether.” Since “many a writer” is plural, they avoid, not avoids.’
    I’m not quite sure why, but “many a writer avoid” sounds completely wrong. The only explanation I can think of is that it is most closely preceded by “a writer.”

    Reply
  243. MH -  June 29, 2011 - 11:19 pm

    I love using the semicolon; it helps fully explain a thought. I have taught my children how to use semicolons, and this skill has definitely come in handy. My younger son recently had to write an essay about a complicated book, using only 10 sentences. By using semicolons, he was able to write a fantastic essay; he received extra credit for using semicolons correctly.

    Reply
  244. Aruna Padmanaban -  June 29, 2011 - 11:13 pm

    Best explanation for the usage of semicolon.

    Reply
  245. Nazir Habib -  June 29, 2011 - 10:39 pm

    Yes, it is used by me but not in a confident manner. Invariably, Microsoft Word remarks “semi colon use?” But many thanx anyway for your article, which will be read by me more often till a clearer picture emerges. Many thanx again. Salams.

    Reply
  246. Emily -  June 29, 2011 - 10:18 pm

    I use it relatively frequently, however I was never quite sure of it’s rules or if I used it the right way. I like the article, however I wish there were more examples so that I could gain more confidence in using it.

    Reply
  247. daniel -  June 29, 2011 - 10:03 pm

    It appears that more than anything, the semicolon is useful as a topic for blog discussions. I am impressed with the keen interest expressed in this topic. The comments serve to show that the use of the semicolon is not universally understood in the same manner; in fact, in many cases it is not understood at all.

    Reply
  248. delusions of grandeur -  June 29, 2011 - 9:57 pm

    Carlitos! don’t worry brother, your (extremely important) comments are still going through, the “tools” haven’t silenced your voice yet! keep fighting the good fight, comrade!

    Reply
  249. Regan -  June 29, 2011 - 9:55 pm

    I use the semicolon when it seems appropriate, though I’m not a huge fan of it. There are many times when the other sentence dividers (for lack of a better word) don’t let you sentence flow right, or put the emphasis on the wrong point.

    Reply
  250. Douglas Anderson -  June 29, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    I think semi-colons come in very handy! One thing good about it is it helps you avoid run-on sentences.

    Reply
  251. kelly -  June 29, 2011 - 8:53 pm

    I love the semicolon; I use it all the time.

    Seriously, a writer needs ALL the tools in her toolbox if she’s not going to overuse any one thing. (Like Nancy Grace and the exclamation point!)

    A writer could end one sentence with a period. Then she could end another sentence with a period. She could keep doing this over and over and over. Or she could incorporate the semicolon on occasion; a little variety does a piece of writing good.

    Reply
  252. Zelda -  June 29, 2011 - 7:47 pm

    i use semicolons mostly as a precursor to an explanation to an idea declared, usually with a relatively short sentence, before the semicolon. like, “weather nowadays are becoming more and more extreme; the summers are much hotter while, on the other hand, winters are getting much colder.”

    Reply
  253. Reg -  June 29, 2011 - 6:44 pm

    I use it as a last resort when writing papers for class since teachers have their pet peeves and semi-colons might be one of them.

    On a side note, I often get mixed up deciding which symbol to use: a “-” or “;”. While I’m procrastinating, I might as well go look that up, too… >_<'

    Reply
  254. egghead -  June 29, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    @Carlitos you are clearly an indignant rigid-minded, dilettantic, unimaginative sociopath.
    First, the semicolon originally used in the first sentence could be interpreted simply as a symbolic clarification of the preceding word.

    Second, you will find that “many a” is defined as “each of a large indefinite number” which is clearly singular and also makes contextual sense since it is used to emphasise that it is writers in their singular form who avoid its usage and not a group of them.

    Third, I expect that you will criticise my English too as breaking the rules of grammar which have so obviously managed to squeeze your thought processes into a metaphorical straitjacket.

    Reply
  255. Vandz -  June 29, 2011 - 6:07 pm

    I absolutely love semicolons and use it all the time! I simply can’t live without it! I’m a software programmer by the way…

    Reply
  256. SallyJJ -  June 29, 2011 - 5:55 pm

    Zog- before you get all weird over a post, proof what you wrote before hitting the enter button:

    “And secondly, no, the word ‘avoids’ should not be used in this instance since the verb has to agree with the noun. The noun in this sentence is singular, hence why the verb is also.”

    You say “avoids” should not be used; that the noun is singular, and so should be the verb. “Avoids” IS singular. Regardless, Carlitos is right.

    Reply
  257. TJ -  June 29, 2011 - 5:31 pm

    I enjoy using the semicolon punctuation; it’s a fun and nifty thing to use to accent a rather bland block of text.

    Reply
  258. Virginia -  June 29, 2011 - 5:24 pm

    I avoid using it. Now that I have read this informative piece I might try to use it.

    Reply
  259. Louis -  June 29, 2011 - 4:02 pm

    I always use semi-colons. I use them when the next part should be it’s own sentence, but doesn’t really make sense by itself. I also use it when it’s not really a comma or a full-stop; it’s kind of in the middle.

    I just realised I used a semi-colon. I can’t help it. xD

    Reply
  260. Laurie -  June 29, 2011 - 3:56 pm

    The semi colon should be used when two sentences relate to a broader point, but they themselves are unrelated. For example:

    Tim had lost his hat that morning; he also knew the flood was not far away.

    Both sentences explain why Tim is worried, but they are unrelated, so a semi-colon is used. Whilst they could be separated by a comma or a full-stop, the semi-colon indicates a closer relationship that either of these two devices.

    Reply
  261. Kimmie -  June 29, 2011 - 3:52 pm

    it’s simply better not to use semi colon since i know if i use it, there’s gonna be big [?] mark or [V] check mark next to it with -1/2pt.

    Reply
  262. Tim Hopkins -  June 29, 2011 - 3:41 pm

    I have always used a semicolon where the second participle is a completion of a thought or second part that really doesn’t fit in with the beginning part. The colon has always been a listing of proof of the preceding part.

    Reply
  263. Kathy -  June 29, 2011 - 3:36 pm

    Use the semi-colon to connect two complete clauses that could each stand alone as a sentence, but that make more sense together than they do if used alone. Example: This film has been edited; it has been formatted to fit your screen. (That example is actually used in video recordings with a period instead of a semi-colon, but it is a perfect example of a good use of a semi-colon.)

    Reply
  264. Pyecat -  June 29, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    I sometimes use a semi colon along with a comma when I use transition words, especially in academic expository writing. For example:

    I like rice; however, other people prefer noodles.

    Reply
  265. maggie -  June 29, 2011 - 3:10 pm

    As Raina bo Baina demonstrated, many have replaced the elipses where the semicolon would normally be appropriate.

    Reply
  266. tigerstripes -  June 29, 2011 - 2:27 pm

    I use a colon to list items within a sentence.
    I use a semicolon to link two related sentences, but the each sentence must be complete grammatically. Dictionary.com has a good example of semi-colon use:

    ‘Jack really didn’t mind being left without a car; he had the house to himself.’

    See how the semicolon links the sentences — if a period had been used, the sentences wouldn’t relate to each other as neatly.

    I wouldn’t use a semicolon in a bulleted list of individual items. The numbers and/or bullets are doing their job; no punctuation is necessary. 8^)

    Reply
  267. ron lewis -  June 29, 2011 - 2:06 pm

    Wow. A lot of people commenting here don’t know how to use semicolons, and yet, seem to think they do. I applaud those of you who have tried to show them the errors of their ways; however, I fear your efforts may be for naught.

    Reply
  268. Diana -  June 29, 2011 - 2:01 pm

    I use the semi-colon sometimes but not really,

    Reply
  269. Eyewitness -  June 29, 2011 - 1:55 pm

    I find the semi-colon a fussy sort of “stage direction” for the reader, but I have a unique, oblique use for it.

    If the thought I am expressing seems to require a semi-colon, I consider it an indication that my concision is at fault in the first place. My rule of thumb is: If a semi-colon really makes sense anywhere in my text, then the material lacks sufficient impetus or clarity. Of course, I then edit any material which seems to warrant a semi-colon to improve the vigor or lucidity of the text.

    I suppose one could reasonably say I use the semi-colon as a screening device. If it makes sense at all, then the underlying text is indicated to exhibit insufficient quality. I NEVER actually leave a semi-colon in place because it “sounds OK.” I think of it as a stylistic bandaid for a poor literary voice.

    Reply
  270. Rosa -  June 29, 2011 - 1:52 pm

    I use the semicolon to the best of my ability.

    Reply
  271. noshy -  June 29, 2011 - 1:40 pm

    Attention everyone: sentences separated by the semicolon must be COMPLETE sentences. An easy way to check for this is to read each sentence by itself. If it can’t stand by itself, you shouldn’t use a semicolon.

    Example (incorrect): “Apples are great; nutritious and delicious.”

    Example (correct): “Apples are great; they’re nutritious and delicious.”

    Notice in the correct example, each part is a complete sentence that could stand alone: “Apples are great. They’re nutritious and delicious.”

    So why use a semicolon? It indicates to the reader that the two sentences are related. For example, the second may elaborate on the first.

    Reply
  272. Janice -  June 29, 2011 - 1:32 pm

    Carlitos, yesterday, has made an error when judging “many a writer” as a plural subject. In old English the “a” made the difference; many is simply a quirky adjective of sorts.

    By the way, I use ; all the time. I prefer it to a comma with a subsequent “and” as being more direct or perhaps assertive.

    Reply
  273. Clara -  June 29, 2011 - 1:30 pm

    I use the semicolon a lot; I think it can add something small but useful to creative writing. However I don’t know if I always use it correctly.

    Reply
  274. Norag -  June 29, 2011 - 1:02 pm

    Courtenay has it right. But the real problem is this microcosm world of punctuation is the double possessive: ” a friend of Ceasar’s “. A column on this oddity, or hoary idiom, would be much appreciated.

    Reply
  275. TheJesus -  June 29, 2011 - 12:26 pm

    I’ve always used the semi-colon kind of like a super comma; connecting two sentences that are fairly, but not always directly related.

    Reply
  276. KD -  June 29, 2011 - 12:15 pm

    I use a semicolon as a substitute for a comma and conjunction. The difference between the two is almost purely a matter of style and “sounding right”.

    “Bob performed a breakdance routine, and Alice applauded him.”
    “Bob performed a breakdance routine; Alice applauded him.”

    Both are correct. It’s just a matter of which you like better, or if you’re trying to squeeze some subtext out of something.

    Reply
  277. John U -  June 29, 2011 - 11:58 am

    Mark Twain liked to use the semicolon combined with a dash;- his own creation. I guess it suggests a pause that is greater than the semicolon, but shorter than the colon. Is there no limit to this madness!

    Reply
  278. JC -  June 29, 2011 - 11:55 am

    At our newspaper, a major use of semi-colons is for clarity in auction ads, to subdivide articles. If you only use commas, it is often unclear which phrases go with what, or where one item leaves off and another begins. Semi-colons divide each item description. Commas separate phrases within the individual descriptions.

    Don’t shoot me (pun intended) for making up this sample, for I don’t know enough about rifles to be accurate, but to illustrate the point:

    “rifles: Winchester, 12-ga., pump action, Remington,” and so on.
    Without the semi-colon, how do you know whether 12-ga. and/or pump action go with the Winchester or the Remington? We frequently get long lists that go on for several lines like this.

    Reply
  279. Vapor Man -  June 29, 2011 - 11:48 am

    The semicolon is actually my favourite punctuation mark; it’s a godsend to us fans of run-on sentences. Its use comes as a reflex to me. I rarely put much thought into sprinkling them into my sentences; one could say that I overuse them, but I’m sure they’re just jealous of my semicolon skills.

    Reply
  280. Joe Felice -  June 29, 2011 - 11:29 am

    Most people either use the semi-colon too much or, as you say, avoid it altogether. It can, and should, be used appropriately. When I use it, it is often followed by moreover, furthermore, nonetheless or however. I’ve always thought the the 2 phrases in the sentence should be connected. Hence, the use of a conjunction.

    Reply
  281. Abdel Shilbaya -  June 29, 2011 - 11:17 am

    I love to use it when I deal with very long sentences.

    Reply
  282. AttyMan -  June 29, 2011 - 11:09 am

    In his email criticizing not only the grammar and punctuation of the article, but the article itself–all while denigrating those who visit this site despite being one of them–Carlitos posted the following:

    “A colon, not a semicolon should be used.”

    Carlitos, will you really take such a condescending attitude against the writer even as you make a simple comma error? To use your words, “[s]houldn’t it be” written as follows?

    “A colon, not a semicolon, should be used.”

    Another embarrassing snafu by the self-righteous (and, dare I say, presumably self-proclaimed linguaphile?) whose pernicious comments are lacking as much in thoughtfulness as they are in heuristic value.

    Reply
  283. Tim -  June 29, 2011 - 11:07 am

    The article could have been improved; the author might have modeled the correct usage.

    I don’t know if this is proper, but I have used colon and semicolon in tandem when listing items such as: 1) something; 2) something else; and 3) one more thing.

    I use the semicolon before phrases that elaborate meaning; e.g., when followed by an exemplia gratia; or by i.e., which signals further explanation. I recognize that these last two are not independent clauses which stand on their own as a sentence.

    Apologies if I have repeated what others have written above; I did not take the time to read all the previous entries.

    Reply
  284. Emily -  June 29, 2011 - 11:04 am

    The semicolon is my favorite punctuation. Don’t hate. It is definitely not silly. It provides a means to explain or expand without having to add in conjunctions. It is a perfectly reasonable and helpful punctuation.

    Reply
  285. Lexi -  June 29, 2011 - 10:54 am

    It was confusing on how to use it so i just avoided it, lol, and its not like you need it

    Reply
  286. Steve T -  June 29, 2011 - 10:49 am

    I choose to use a semi-colon to conjoin two related sentences with an adverb; clearly, a period would not work as well here.

    Reply
  287. Andrés -  June 29, 2011 - 10:48 am

    I have been using both colons and semicolons quite frequently as of late for visual reasons. They tend to break up the monotonous and interminable wave of commas and periods in prose, and are especially useful tools in poetry. I lament that I only figured out how to use these wonderful little tools properly in the last few years after nearly a decade of professional writing.
    Alas!

    Reply
  288. WALNUT -  June 29, 2011 - 10:39 am

    Somehow, I have survived for 89 years without knowing this; and probably have driven others utterly mad. So, for the next two or three years I have left on this plane of existence— I will forego this inclusion. You see I still don’t have it straight.

    Reply
  289. Emilio Ferrero -  June 29, 2011 - 10:08 am

    Following mboudreau’s line of thought, an article could also be written on the use of its and it’s.
    Being Spanish my native language, the semicolon is a natural feature for me; its proper use is shown on Dr. Seuss’ quote.
    Having had (thank God!) very demanding English teachers, misusing “its” or “it’s” was high on their agenda. There are misused in at least tow of the previous comments…

    Reply
  290. Scott -  June 29, 2011 - 9:40 am

    I use the semicolon in technical writing; a description might need further clarification due to an option or use.

    I also use a hyphen in casual writing such as an email – to add an after thought.

    Reply
  291. Fred -  June 29, 2011 - 9:36 am

    I can’t believe the article did not mention the most common and important uses of the semicolon; it is mainly for programming languages and smileys.

    (Good job Kit, and others!)

    Reply
  292. Jeff -  June 29, 2011 - 9:18 am

    I have avoided semicolons entirely since reading this maxim from Kurt Vonnegut:

    “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.”

    Reply
  293. D-Rock -  June 29, 2011 - 9:11 am

    @D-Rock,
    I have a correction:
    I was wrong about the way I make lists in paragraph form. What I actually do is use both semi colons and colons. This being said, the above list should actually read:

    “Salsa: tomato, onion, spices; Guacamole: avacado, lemon juice, tomato;”

    That makes more sense now! Haha I am still quite tired while writing this. Anyways, I like this style because the semi colons separate our main topics (the foods being made) while the colons introduce the corresponding ingredients (or sub-topics). Thank you again to Ricky for bringing up this point.

    Reply
  294. Merlitto -  June 29, 2011 - 9:07 am

    I am not a native English speaker/writter and I am always puzzled by the abusive use of the dash instead of the colon or semicolon. During grammar classes I do not recall this caracter to be tought to be honest; both colon and semicolon do the job very well as perfectly explained here.

    Reply
  295. Carolyn -  June 29, 2011 - 9:07 am

    I use it as the writer suggested, which is to join sentences that feel like they should be linked. However, the way that I most frequently use a semi-colon is as a “super comma”. I use it when I have several long clauses within one sentence that, if the clauses were shorter, would require a comma. Sometimes I get confused with what the punctuation should be, so have found myself resorting more and more frequently to the hyphen!

    Reply
  296. D-Rock -  June 29, 2011 - 9:00 am

    @Ricky,
    Yeah that’s interesting, another way that I have used semi colons is also when list making — just in paragraph form. The way I did was seperate main topics with commas and then introduce their sub-topics with semi colons. Maybe a recipe would be a good example.

    “Salsa; tomato, onion, spices, Guacamole; avacado, lemon juice, tomato, etc.”

    Do you kind of understand that? I believe that this has just been my own personal flair but maybe others have pioneered it as have I. I thought it was interesting that Ricky brought that point up.

    Reply
  297. D-Rock -  June 29, 2011 - 8:56 am

    @CPT Otter Fundip,
    I believe that in that particular instant, the use of the semi colon is incorrect. This is because I was always taught in English class that when using a semi colon, it replaces any conjunctions. Therefore, the “want; because the …” would be incorrect rather it should just read “want; the…”. This is how I have always used a semi colon and who knows maybe I was taught wrong, but that just has been the way I have used it.

    Reply
  298. sadie -  June 29, 2011 - 8:53 am

    I enjoy the semicolon; I think of it as a useful and versatile punctuation mark, and without it, no one could wink on the computer! ;)

    Reply
  299. Space -  June 29, 2011 - 8:44 am

    As my 5th grade computer teacher explained: a semi-colon is used to separate two different sentences. I use it when writing papers; this is mainly so I can start two sentences with the same word and get away with it. I do have a question about spaces. That same teacher said that you always do two spaces after a period; many of my new acquaintances tell me otherwise.

    Reply
  300. AndrewG -  June 29, 2011 - 8:20 am

    Carlitos – Grammar issues notwithstanding, you are a troll. There is no need to belittle people for their incorrect use of grammar (or what you feel is incorrect).

    Regarding the “avoid vs. avoids” argument: I believe the problem actually lies within the original sentence structure, which is what caused all the confusion to begin with. “Many a” is an antiquated term, and you can see why! The sentence should read “Many writers avoid it altogether.” The way it currently stands though, I believe the sentence is correct. Had the sentence been written as I suggested, “many” would have been modifying “writers.” As such, the way I read the sentence in the article is that “many” is also modifying “a writer” which makes “writer” the noun and “avoids” the correct verb form! You wouldn’t say that “writer” modifies “many,” would you?

    Reply
  301. Librarian -  June 29, 2011 - 8:18 am

    I LOVE the semicolon; it’s one of my favorite punctuation marks. It’s like a “power comma” that creates a mental pause, as if one were taking a breath, to show that what follows is separate but connected.

    Reply
  302. Erin -  June 29, 2011 - 8:04 am

    I use the semi-colon all the time. It is definitely possible to avoid using it and still be grammatically correct, but sometimes it really helps to express exactly what it is you’re trying to say.

    Reply
  303. KevinOnEarth -  June 29, 2011 - 7:53 am

    In any case, the semi-colon must, to have even a bit of usefulness, be placed between two solidly independent clauses.Here is an example from from Henry James: “Ailene is nauseating; She too is the physically expressed substance of nausea: vomit.”
    Kev

    Reply
  304. Ricky -  June 29, 2011 - 7:50 am

    I’m not a writer as most of you might define one, however, I do write technical processes and procedures within an IT enviroment.

    I tend to both see and use semicolons in bulleted lists, such as:

    1) Something;
    2) Something else;
    3) A third and final thing.

    I can’t actually give any explanation as to why the semicolon is used in this way (either by others or by myself, in fact) but thought I’d share it and see what people made of it.

    Ricky

    Reply
  305. Catherine Jeffrey -  June 29, 2011 - 7:39 am

    With all the borrowing and discarding we do in the English language, I use the semicolon frequently. That’s my way of helping to prevent it from becoming obselete.

    Reply
  306. Marc -  June 29, 2011 - 7:32 am

    Of the colon I often make use
    (though the subject is ripe for abuse)
    But lest a list roll on
    I use semicolon
    To clarify, not to confuse

    Reply
  307. steveNewdell -  June 29, 2011 - 7:15 am

    Well, I like it; stronger than a comma, weaker than a colon — continuing the thought before we come to the full stop.period… ! See End of the Age by Dr. Steve Newdell at Kindle store

    Reply
  308. Maria K. -  June 29, 2011 - 7:03 am

    I use it a lot and I actually learned to use it quite early, while learning English; Because I’m Greek….
    In Greek language this symbol is used as our question mark, since ages ago, our language is practically ancient. So we all learn it’s significance early on, so as not to confuse it and misuse it. In Greek we have the upper dot in it’s place, with the exact same effect. We use that a lot too! :)))

    Reply
  309. Puggle -  June 29, 2011 - 6:35 am

    I use the semicolon in lists to separate items. e.g. “The system included several desirable components: 2TB hard-drive; 4GB of RAM; BluRay recorder; Wifi; BlueTooth……”. I haven’t really thought of checking if it’s usage is warranted in such situations – it’s just a habit I developed a while back and am probably misusing it (like the last hyphen).

    Reply
  310. Daryl -  June 29, 2011 - 5:59 am

    I wear the semi-colon out; since most of my writings are expository rants and incessant babble; thus the fluidity and lack of finality….LOL! Plus I hate the overuse of conjunctions. Just me though..

    Reply
  311. mboudreau -  June 29, 2011 - 4:32 am

    It’s kind of sad that this article even needed to be written. Is this not taught in schools anymore? I learned about the semicolon’s use throughout elementary and middle school (in the 1980s), and have a thorough grasp of its proper place in English grammar. I assumed most everyone did until e-mail and texting became commonplace in the ’90s; alas, its improper (or lack of) use has been a thorn in my side ever since. The semicolon is not the only cause of irritation; maybe someone should write an article on the proper use of commas, too.

    Reply
  312. writer -  June 29, 2011 - 3:53 am

    Punctuation (be it for the purposes of communication with an ‘other’, artistic expression to said ‘other’, or any other form of writing in which punctuation would be used, assuming there would be said ‘other’ to whom something would be expressed), like any other tool, can be used effectually or ineffectually, according to the author’s intention or purpose in writing said communication, artistic expression, or otherwise to said assumed ‘other’, resulting, in the case of communication, in confusion for said ‘other’, and, thus, perhaps, miscommunication; however, in the case of artistic expression, some intangible, perhaps even ephemoral quality within said artistic expression, which may, in fact, have been intended by the author to merely be intangible or ephemoral, might confuse said ‘other’, therefore, unintentionally (perhaps, or perhaps not, merely for the purposes of exppressing the post-modern notions of the ridiculousnessness of the conventions of punctuation of all forms and the ineffectualness of language as a tool of any kind), and they (the other) – whether ‘they’ is a he or a she is irrelevant (why it is the pronoun ‘they’ is used for both plurral and singlar person-nouns (rather than, the pronoun ‘he’ when referring to person-nouns when the sex of the person-noun is unknown), is, perhaps, an intolerable, futile digression (much like the discussion of whether or not a comma should be placed before or after a bracket and whether or not hyphens could be used instead of brackets, and, if so, whether or not it looks as strange to everyone else as it does to me to have hyphens followed by commas, which thus necessitates the use of brackets rather than hyphens), I know, and, therefore, not essential information for this sentence, which is, hence, the reason for the brackets)-, might pretend to ‘get it’ when they really don’t, much like most people who pretend to understand art) is ridiculous.

    Reply
  313. Suhani -  June 29, 2011 - 1:52 am

    When in a sentence an idea is expressed in the former part and you still wish to express another or related idea, you use the semi colon after the former part :) !

    Reply
  314. Bok -  June 29, 2011 - 1:45 am

    The Figure: the word directly after a semicolon is generally not capitalized, just like a colon.

    Personally, I just the semicolon a lot, but I’m not a native English speaker. I think it’s more common in other languages that use Latin script.

    Reply
  315. Kt -  June 29, 2011 - 12:22 am

    The letter straight after a semi-colon would not be capitalized, unless that word was a proper noun. Also, I use semi-colons to group parts of a long list or a sentence with lots of commas in it, like this:

    “Lola got the flour, eggs and milk for the cake; the apricots, strawberries, blackberries and the sugar for the jam; while Pattie got the jellybeans, M&Ms and cupcakes for the birthday party.”

    Colons are also used for headings and subtitles, like this:

    INGREDIENTS: Blah blah blah di blah …

    GUEST LIST: Joe
    Tom
    Nancy
    Kloe
    Connie
    Jack

    Reply
  316. Naomi -  June 29, 2011 - 12:11 am

    If we got rid of the semicolon, where does the reduction of punctuation marks stop? Who’s to say that we need colons, or dashes, or commas for that matter? I think of semicolons a bit like synonyms; we don’t necessarily need them but they add so much more depth to your writing.

    This reminds me a bit of the apostrophe ban in Birmingham, UK because people couldn’t use them properly and kept getting signs wrong. I think that the misuse or lack of understanding of a certain bit of grammar doesn’t warrant its abolishment.

    Reply
  317. Valerie -  June 28, 2011 - 11:21 pm

    The semicolon has always been a difficult choice, but I use it an awful lot. Mostly for creative writing, and when I’m not to sure if I should or not.

    Reply
  318. Carlitos -  June 28, 2011 - 8:51 pm

    @elise on June 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm
    “I tend to like dashes better, maybe because they feel very contemporary and not as bound by conventions.

    I do use the semicolon, in sentences like:

    Carlitos’ posts are not profane; his cheap mix of high and low diction is, though.”

    Elise, your usage of “diction” to describe my typed comments on an internet blogsite could be considered poor diction. Hah!

    Reply
  319. Carlitos -  June 28, 2011 - 8:44 pm

    @annette on June 28, 2011 at 6:09 am
    “I had a great english teacher in junior high who made each punctuation mark’s use abundantly clear.
    At Carlitos, “Many a writer avoids it altogether.” Since “many a writer” is plural, they avoid, not avoids. I give you an example to help you understand thatm sometimes a subject is not completely defined.
    “The orchestra are warming up” infers each individual member as it’s subjects, making it plural in nature.
    “The orchestra is warming up” uses orchestra as a single group, which is why it can be written as though the subject is singular.
    Grammar is quite complicated, but that doesn’t mean you should feel the need to be viscious and call people “tools” or insult any other human because of your lack of certaincy regarding its correct usage. In short, get a life; they make people happy.”

    Annette, thank you for corroborating what I said in my post, regarding avoid vs. avoids. I said it should be avoid, and not avoids. Orchestra, data, impala; I get it. Singular and/or plural subject(s) all at the same wonderful time.

    And thank you for your life advice. I feel that I would be lost without it. But I must inform you that it is “certainty”, not “certaincy.”

    Thanks for playing, come back and try again soon.

    Reply
  320. J. P. -  June 28, 2011 - 8:39 pm

    Very good thought processes; I guess you would have to know your audience.

    Reply
  321. Carlitos -  June 28, 2011 - 8:34 pm

    @Zog on June 28, 2011 at 2:40 am
    “@Carlitos

    Sort out your usages of English grammar before you get your hot-head on.

    Regarding your first point, I think you’ll find that a colon was used in the article. And secondly, no, the word ‘avoids’ should not be used in this instance since the verb has to agree with the noun. The noun in this sentence is singular, hence why the verb is also. ”

    Zog- sorry pal, but you’re wrong on both counts. First, they changed the semicolon to a colon after the fact, as per my suggestion after being third to post. Secondly, you’re agreeing with me though you say I was wrong. Please check the definition of “contradiction.”

    Reply
  322. consolecadet -  June 28, 2011 - 8:23 pm

    I use semicolons far too often in my creative writing endeavours. They’re far too irresistible.

    Reply
  323. Ray Shell -  June 28, 2011 - 8:19 pm

    I use semicolons. I don’t think there is anything wrong with them. They are there for a reason. I also think of them as unique symbols. No need to OMG over a mix of a period and a comma. ;)

    P.S. They are good for winky faces ;D :p

    Reply
  324. Mr Oogi Boogi -  June 28, 2011 - 5:54 pm

    @the figure: no capital after the semicolon, except when a capital would normally be used.

    Reply
  325. Evera -  June 28, 2011 - 5:54 pm

    I use the semicolon quite a few times however I never fully understood the semicolon as well. I think there is a great intention when using it however grammatically I never knew the actual use.

    Reply
  326. Jason -  June 28, 2011 - 4:57 pm

    Why would anyone think the semicolon is pointless? I don’t use it often, but when I do, it definitely is the best punctuation mark I know, like when I have two ideas that are diverse enough that a comma won’t work, but still related enough to be in the same sentence. it’s just like the slash, dash, acrostics, and the dot dot dot, as I call it (you know, the … symbol), they don’t need to e used often, but they are still important enough to keep them. Besides, I believe that if we just started removing punctuation marks, then we would slowly start ruining the English language! It may sound extreme, but once you get rid of one mark, then people might start thinking we can just keep doing that.

    Reply
  327. Samantha -  June 28, 2011 - 4:27 pm

    I too think that the semicolon is a useful and necessary punctuation mark. I use the semicolon when it feels right.

    Reply
  328. Willie -  June 28, 2011 - 4:07 pm

    However,
    I need to space correctly! LOL !!!

    Reply
  329. Willie -  June 28, 2011 - 4:05 pm

    I use a semicolon a LOT! And I THINK I use it correctly. It makes for easier reading;I think………….:)

    Reply
  330. liongrrrrl -  June 28, 2011 - 3:33 pm

    I absolutely ABHORRED using the semi-colon because I’d never actually read a definition of what it was or how it was supposed to be used. All I knew about it was the inferring I’d done when I read it somewhere else. Now that I know what it is, I’m sure I’ll use it more often! Thank you so much!!!

    Reply
  331. supagirl -  June 28, 2011 - 3:31 pm

    semicolons r great to use if ya wanna write a little paragraph with a lotts meaning. U dont have to write as much with the semicolons.

    Reply
  332. The Figure -  June 28, 2011 - 3:26 pm

    Question: When using a semicolon, would one capitalize the first word that comes after the semicolon if it were not a proper name?

    I always get this confused, so I find myself wedging the word “I” immediately after the semicolon so I don’t have to worry about it; I would really like to know.

    I use a semicolon when there is ambiguity in a sentence and connecting it to another sentence would take away the ambiguity. As an example:

    “I bought a new car; it is red.” OR “I bought a new car; It is red.”

    As with the last example, I would only use a semicolon when the two joined phrases are complete sentences on their own. I suppose one could use them without the second part being a complete sentence, but I would hate to have my writing style questioned because I opted to be a little flashy.

    Finally, as mentioned above, I would use a semicolon to group listed items. Commas alone just don’t visually break it up enough for me. Also, they feel run-on-… uh.. ie. ;)

    Reply
  333. Russ Richards -  June 28, 2011 - 3:19 pm

    The semicolon is not just a semi-pause: between a full pause period and a brief pause comma. A semicolon has several distinct functions in English grammar and punctuation:

    Use a semicolon to:

    • Link two independent clauses to connect closely related ideas

    Rule: A semicolon is most commonly used to link (in a single sentence) two independent clauses that are closely related in thought. When a semicolon is used to join two or more ideas (parts) in a sentence, those ideas are then given equal position or rank.

    Example: Some people write with a computer and a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.

    • Link clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases to connect closely related ideas

    Rule: Use a semicolon between two independent clauses that are connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

    Example: However they choose to write, people are allowed to make their own decisions; as a result, many people swear by their writing methods.

    • Link lists where the items contain commas to avoid confusion between list items

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

    Example: Today, there are basically two ways to write – with a pen or pencil, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which is more expensive but quick and neat.

    • Link lengthy clauses or clauses with commas to avoid confusion between clauses

    Rule: Use a semicolon between independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction if the clauses are already punctuated with commas or if the clauses are lengthy.

    Example: Some people write with a word processor, typewriter, or a computer; but others, for different reasons, choose to write with a pen or pencil.

    Mistakes involving using a comma instead of a semicolon
    ——————————————————-

    In a compound sentence, both parts of the sentence are independent clauses, and commas should not be used to connect independent clauses even if there is no coordinating conjunction. This mistake is known as a comma splice.

    A conjunctive adverb (such as, however or therefore) signals a connection between two independent clauses, and commas should not be used in front of the conjunctive adverb as it would be correct in front of a coordinating conjunction to connect independent clauses. And if if there is no conjunctive adverb nor coordinating conjunction, a comma should not be used in place of a semicolon; only a semicolon is appropriate.

    Reference definitions:
    ———————-

    Coordinating conjunctions

    Coordinating conjunctions — and, but, or, nor, so, yet — join grammatically similar elements (two nouns, two verbs, two modifiers, two independent clauses). These conjunctions indicate that the elements joined are equal in importance and in structure.

    Conjunctive adverbs

    Conjunctive adverbs (or sentence adverbs) indicate a connection between two independent clauses in one sentence. Or they may link the ideas in 2two or more sentences. Or they may show relationships between ideas within an independent clause.

    English has many conjunctive adverbs, including: also, however, otherwise, consequently, indeed, similarly, finally, likewise, then, furthermore, moreover, therefore, hence, nevertheless, thus, nonetheless.

    Transitional phrases

    English offers innumerable transitional phrases; the linkages they provide allow your reader to follow the progression of a person’s argument or ideas more easily.

    Some transitional phrases include: in addition, in contrast, in the meantime, more importantly, for example, in the same way, on the contrary, on the other hand, that is to say, to summarize, by all means, of course, in fact.

    Reply
  334. RH -  June 28, 2011 - 2:50 pm

    I use the semicolon a lot in my works. It strengthens the ideas two sentences share with each other and allows for a smoother flow between the two.

    Reply
  335. Maybel -  June 28, 2011 - 2:45 pm

    Semicolons are definetly my favourite punctuation. I use it all the time– excessively even. Persoally I feel that no other punctuation can do what they do; for example, Oscar Levant ( A pianist, composer, and actor in the 40′s) once said, “Happiness isn’t something you experience; it is something you remember.” Taking out the semicolon and replacing it with a period or comma would make it alot less clear.
    Semicolens, used efectively, can sophisacate, and add to a piece of writing. HOWEVER; they should not be used unless one knows how to use them properly.

    Reply
  336. Archon -  June 28, 2011 - 2:31 pm

    @ JJ Rousseau

    Care to reveal where you are posting from?? French name, French words, French construction, French humor style…. yet not French! Cajun? Haitian? Quebecois? Hmmm, non, ce n’est pas possible. Non-Quebecois French-Canadian? Metis? Parlez-vous Winnipeg?

    Reply
  337. Kit -  June 28, 2011 - 1:51 pm

    I use them all the time; a semi-colon is used to terminate a line of code in PHP as well as some other scripting/programing languages.

    I also use them as seen above. A semi-colon implies a relationship or causality between two sentences that you really just don’t get with a period. It also changes the rhythm and phrasing.

    Reply
  338. elise -  June 28, 2011 - 1:26 pm

    I tend to like dashes better, maybe because they feel very contemporary and not as bound by conventions.

    I do use the semicolon, in sentences like:

    Carlitos’ posts are not profane; his cheap mix of high and low diction is, though.

    Reply
  339. Joy -  June 28, 2011 - 1:06 pm

    I think my editor has finally given up trying to get me to take all the semi-colons out of my writing. :-) I use them mainly for relating two sentences.

    @debbie. Only one space please after all punctuation, including a period if you are using a proportional font. Most fonts are proportional; one well-known exception is Courier, which is a monospaced font like those found on old-fashioned typewriters.

    Reply
  340. Mel -  June 28, 2011 - 12:36 pm

    As much as I want to I rarely use it cause I don’t want to be grammatically wrong.

    Reply
  341. Megan -  June 28, 2011 - 12:28 pm

    Actually, while I did 2020 (online school) I had to learn the difference and it’s like two clauses connected to one another or something along those lines. When I write I like to use the semicolon because most people like avoiding it so when like my English teachers read it, they’re impressed that I’d be so bold. Haha

    Reply
  342. Kathy -  June 28, 2011 - 12:09 pm

    I use the semicolon quite often and find it very useful.

    Reply
  343. Book Beater -  June 28, 2011 - 12:01 pm

    Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.
    Lewis Thomas

    Reply
  344. HY -  June 28, 2011 - 11:58 am

    I use the semicolon all the time in my writing, especially when I have a long sentence but want to avoid a run-on.

    Reply
  345. Adam -  June 28, 2011 - 11:55 am

    I have a problem with run-on sentences; as such I LOVE the semicolon, because it gives me a legitimate grammatically correct excuse to ramble on endlessly without feeling that I’m just emulating James Joyce.

    Reply
  346. Patty Knox -  June 28, 2011 - 11:31 am

    I couldn’t exist without semicolons; there are times when nothing else will do.

    Reply
  347. PWB3 -  June 28, 2011 - 10:57 am

    In your article you state: “Many a writer avoids it altogether.”

    Isn’t the subject of the sentence “many”, which is plural, not “a writer”, which is the modifier? Should it read “Many a writer avoid it altogether.”?

    This appears grammatically correct, but it sounds clumsy. The sentence could have been “Many writers avoid it altogether.”

    Is the subject “writer”, and the modifier “many a”? Hmmmmm. Just wondering…

    Any comments?

    Reply
  348. neely -  June 28, 2011 - 10:53 am

    Instead semicolon is one of my favourite punctuation , just because of its usual meaning as compare to other punctuation marks and offcourse they are some of the exceptional punctuation marks.

    Reply
  349. Gary -  June 28, 2011 - 10:02 am

    I used to write for a newspaper, and the stylebook back then had us use a semicolon thusly when listing a group of people and their titles, ranks, grades, etc. in text or in photo captions:

    Clarence Frick, senior; Dorothy Dodo, junior; Tubby Tuba, sophomore and Sally Jones, freshman.
    or
    Susan Smith, president; Bob Wilson, treasurer; Timothy Tunes, secretary and Mary Hadalamb, vice-president.

    Reply
  350. LM -  June 28, 2011 - 9:57 am

    I use them all the time, mainly to connect two closely-related sentences. T/hey do convey how the writer wishes the sentences to be understood, and thus how they are to be read, at least for me. And yes, read “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves!”

    Reply
  351. RL -  June 28, 2011 - 9:25 am

    I use semicolons extensively. They are an exceptional communications device.

    Reply
  352. RandellC -  June 28, 2011 - 9:17 am

    Semicolons rock!

    Reply
  353. T. Rockne -  June 28, 2011 - 8:19 am

    I like the semicolon; read some Faulkner. If semicolons are good enough for a Nobel prize winner; they are good enough for me.

    Reply
  354. Fifty Thousand -  June 28, 2011 - 7:50 am

    @Alicia: I think you’re right. I use it mostly in my stories’ dialog, or if I’m describing scenery. It helps the reader to visualize something that would be harder to picture with two separate sentences. It also allows more comfortable wording in places where it is critical for a reader not to get bogged down in trying to figure out what I’m saying.

    Reply
  355. Monique -  June 28, 2011 - 7:34 am

    I once got 10 points off on a quiz because I used a colon instead of a semicolon. That is unjust

    Reply
  356. Lindsay -  June 28, 2011 - 7:28 am

    I think Courtenay best summed this issue up nicely. (“it creates a refined, considered sort of pause”) I use it often in business correspondence to keep by sentences concise (it helps me avoid using to be “and”s), yet not too chopy. I think they should be used more often. I love them.

    Reply
  357. Katy -  June 28, 2011 - 7:13 am

    The semicolon is NOT to be used for sentence fragments. The second part needs to be a complete sentence, able to stand on its own.

    Reply
  358. Natalie -  June 28, 2011 - 7:06 am

    I love semicolons. I use them quite frequently and I do believe they help with the fluidity of my writing ;)

    Reply
  359. Saad -  June 28, 2011 - 6:50 am

    Never used it, and never plan to use it in the future .

    Reply
  360. Clint -  June 28, 2011 - 6:36 am

    Ah, the wonderfully delicious semicolon! What a treat for the literate reader’s inner voice in tasting the creative intent of the imaginative writer. Just as inflection lends flavor and meaning to the spoken word for the orator or the thespian, so, too, does the semicolon offer similar reward for writer and reader. The semicolon is a refined mark of punctuation furthering and enhancing the richness of reading (or reading aloud); it ought not be dismissed as frivolous.

    Reply
  361. leeesaah -  June 28, 2011 - 6:26 am

    Silly? No. Under appreciated and utilized? Absolutely! I DO use it occasionally.

    Reply
  362. Richard Durst -  June 28, 2011 - 6:25 am

    I don’t think the semicolon is silly at all. I use it all the time; in fact I find it to be a mark of a good creative writer.

    Reply
  363. Raina bo baina -  June 28, 2011 - 6:17 am

    I use semi colons… now whether I use the symbol correctly or not is strongly up for debate. :)

    Reply
  364. Rachelle -  June 28, 2011 - 6:10 am

    I use it when I’m thinking of some thing else to say.

    Reply
  365. annette -  June 28, 2011 - 6:09 am

    I had a great english teacher in junior high who made each punctuation mark’s use abundantly clear.
    At Carlitos, “Many a writer avoids it altogether.” Since “many a writer” is plural, they avoid, not avoids. I give you an example to help you understand thatm sometimes a subject is not completely defined.
    “The orchestra are warming up” infers each individual member as it’s subjects, making it plural in nature.
    “The orchestra is warming up” uses orchestra as a single group, which is why it can be written as though the subject is singular.
    Grammar is quite complicated, but that doesn’t mean you should feel the need to be viscious and call people “tools” or insult any other human because of your lack of certaincy regarding its correct usage. In short, get a life; they make people happy.

    Reply
  366. mochazina -  June 28, 2011 - 5:48 am

    I am an Engineer and I use the semicolon quite often; however, I recall the rules for using it being quite different that explained above.

    Reply
  367. Leo V -  June 28, 2011 - 5:14 am

    I don’t understand. I like the semicolon. Before the comma and the period, it’s my most used punctuation mark. It helps to eloquently express the idea and has more power to separate than the colon. After the semicolon is like the follow through or supporting ideas and pizazz that I want the whole sentence to have. I only use a colon when I’m going to introduce some things and in formal writing.

    Reply
  368. DW -  June 28, 2011 - 5:08 am

    I use the semi-colon often. I quite enjoy the semi-colon; I find it useful.

    Reply
  369. Harriet -  June 28, 2011 - 5:06 am

    Also, it takes the place of a conjunction:
    Tom, Dick, and Harry came to the party; Joe couldn’t make it. (Semicolon takes the place of “but”)

    Reply
  370. Harriet -  June 28, 2011 - 5:03 am

    The semicolon is one of my favorite punctuation marks to make my thoughts very clear to the reader. I use the semicolon often to join the independent parts of a compound sentence. When one of the parts of a long compound sentence has commas within it, the semicolon acts as the clear separation between the parts.

    Example: (To repunctuate and paraphrase Ayn Rand in We the Living)
    Now that my life is over, it doesn’t make any difference to anyone; and it isn’t that they are indifferent; it’s just that they don’t know what it means – that treasure of mine. (Commas at each of those semicolon spots would create a run-on sentence)

    Or the semicolon can take the place of a period when two sentences are very closely related, as in:
    It isn’t that they are indifferent; they just don’t understand.

    Or to distinguish the end of the independent clause from a series that has preceeded it:
    The brothers who were there were Tom, Dick, and Harry; but Joe couldn’t make it.
    Basically I use it in very long sentences when a comma doesn’t do the trick and a period is too strong.

    Reply
  371. Jayashree Deshpande -  June 28, 2011 - 4:58 am

    I think the semi colon has become popular after people started using it in a smiley ;-))

    Reply
  372. Sharon -  June 28, 2011 - 4:52 am

    The semicolon offers a necessary and distinct pause; I use it often.

    Reply
  373. debbie -  June 28, 2011 - 4:51 am

    what i want to know is how many spaces go after the semicolon? i have always thought that two spaces go after the colon and only one after the semicolon. is this correct?

    Reply
  374. bobdole -  June 28, 2011 - 4:34 am

    Well… Now I know for SURE on how to use this. Thank you website!

    Reply
  375. street115 -  June 28, 2011 - 4:30 am

    i’ve often used semicolons (;) for the purpose of correlating two different phrases or in conclusions such as this:

    “the environment has presented massive destruction on humanity because of their impropriety toward the role of saving nature; hence, the end of the world is near.”

    did i use it improperly?
    thank you.

    Reply
  376. Vipul Kaushik -  June 28, 2011 - 4:29 am

    I have always used the semicolon to state a sentence which is opposite in meaning to the sentence preceding the ;

    “If we get these changes before the goal setting exercise, then these will be considered; else not.”

    The above sentence is how I had been using it. Read it somewhere that semicolon is used to separate two sentences with opposite connotations.

    Reply
  377. Natalia -  June 28, 2011 - 4:17 am

    Not a single example of semicolon usage in the entire article? Not to mention, an incomplete and weak explanation of said punctuation. Clearly the unqualified author does not understand the semicolon him/herself.

    Reply
  378. SEMICOLON | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  June 28, 2011 - 4:02 am

    [...] Semicolon; Semi-tough; Semi-tractor trailer truck: — We like the double hyphen dash — But we don’t know, like why the /slash? — A coffee enema will clear the colon, so we’ve been told; — another point where we’re not sold. — We use the dash with punctuation, — for our own odd sense of rhythmic configuration. — Our daily attempt of performing doggerel, — imperfect and mediocre we might add, — buys us time within our bloggerel: Eventually it won’t appear so bad. — The structure and our lack of knowledge, — is no excuse for us not to learn. — How do you get to Carnegie Hall? — Practice, practice — feel the burn — or let the coffee cool. –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

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  379. ConfusedSchoolGirl -  June 28, 2011 - 3:46 am

    I’m not really understanding the semicolon and I have never used it… I probably never will ;)

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  380. Aliaksandr -  June 28, 2011 - 3:45 am

    My usage of the semicolon is pretty much in line with the ideas mentioned in the article.

    I also find the semicolon useful in structuring long sentences, where too many commas would cause confusion. This way semicolons break up a sentence into larger blocks, whereas commas break up these larger blocks into smaller sub-blocks.

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  381. Kier -  June 28, 2011 - 3:25 am

    I use it a lot, I say; a very astonishing punctuation mark.

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  382. Lenee -  June 28, 2011 - 3:16 am

    Semicolon is a super comma and I use it all the time!

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  383. Tony Milner -  June 28, 2011 - 3:02 am

    I use the semicolon to separate email addresses in the address fields of Outlook. It is also used conventionally to separate numerical references to different chapters in a given biblical book (e.g. Mark 2:1; 3:1). By extension this is often used of other works which are divided into some form of ‘chapter and verse’.

    Oh and it is ‘Many a writer avoids’ – the singular ‘a’ overrides the ‘many’ – the alternative (and arguably better because more straightforward) phrase would be ‘many writers avoid’

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  384. Cristobal de Saracho -  June 28, 2011 - 2:56 am

    I use the semi colon:

    LA woman has been my favorite song for a very long time, don’t ask cause I don’t know; Thing is plenty years later I met a girl in LA, which I then later married and we have tow beautiful kids now. I am a amazed at how the universe conspires to make your wants and desires come a live!! ( I copied some of this universe stuff from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist).

    There are no words to express what happens in life, you either believe and live in it or lay dead with your eyes open; I am now more convinced than ever that there is so much more fun after this stage than ever, I mean just look at us(you,I, everyone) in this passing, what do you really think? that this is as good as it gets? did the baby in the womb thought that getting fed was all there was to it? no, he hadn’t listened to Jimmy sing Gloria yet or the Jefferson talk about the white rabbit, it just keeps getting better and better when you can see,then you can see. vamanus!!

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  385. Beveryl -  June 28, 2011 - 2:40 am

    I use the semicolon to separate things in a long list of groups: yesterday I bought bananas, apples, and pears; rye bread, wheat bread, and sandwich rounds; milk, iced tea, soda, water, and lemonade.

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  386. Zog -  June 28, 2011 - 2:40 am

    @Carlitos

    Sort out your usages of English grammar before you get your hot-head on.

    Regarding your first point, I think you’ll find that a colon was used in the article. And secondly, no, the word ‘avoids’ should not be used in this instance since the verb has to agree with the noun. The noun in this sentence is singular, hence why the verb is also.

    and @ CPT Otter Fundip. You cant use a semi-colon in that sentence, because the the clause after the semi-colon is not independent and cannot stand on its own as it wouldn’t make sense. A comma should be used instead.

    Semi-colons are useful when they are used correctly. They should be used to connect two independent clauses together which are related.

    For example: Gorillas love drinking at parties; they often get very drunk.

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  387. Violet -  June 28, 2011 - 2:03 am

    as in ; ) without the space in between

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  388. Violet -  June 28, 2011 - 2:02 am

    I use the semicolon like this ;)

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  389. The One -  June 28, 2011 - 1:52 am

    I am the first; commenting continues…

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  390. Alicia Marisal -  June 28, 2011 - 1:41 am

    I like to incorporate the semicolon in my writing but only when the document allows creativity: where visual pictures and individual thought count or are required. For example, as a linguistics major, I like to use semicolons in writing where I can incorporate my own hypotheses, experiences, and observations. Yet when discussing data such as charts and theories/hypotheses of others I stray away and even consciously delete semicolons. What does this mean to the semiotics of writing?
    Perhaps the semicolon is a tool we consciously, or unconsciously use to mimic information unattainable through writing: the linguistic information we usually acquire through body language and such.

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  391. Courtenay -  June 28, 2011 - 1:21 am

    Of course I use the semicolon; it creates a refined, considered sort of pause. A dash, on the other hand – that’s a catch-your-breath, excited sort of pause. And if you want to pause intriguingly… there’s the ellipsis. There we have it: a summary of how all these different punctuation marks are useful in their own way. (And see, there’s how to use a colon too.)

    By the way, the best guide to punctuation I’ve ever read is “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss. But be warned (colon again!): if you’re not a stickler, it will drive you mad.

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  392. Tyler S -  June 28, 2011 - 1:20 am

    I love the semicolon. I used to use it all of the time while writing essays. I especially enjoyed including them in Essays written for standardized tests or Advanced Placement exams.

    I get the feeling I lost a point here and there due to the grader not quite being sure how to handle the whole situation, but that never stopped me.

    I learned it back in seventh grade and let me tell you, I ran with it.

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  393. Gary Chow -  June 28, 2011 - 1:19 am

    I reckon the semicolon is the most under appreciated punctuation mark in all of English grammar. It’s useful for joining sentences when a full stop offers too big a pause and a comma too brief. Evidently, George Orwell hated it. I use a semicolon often.

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  394. Vincent Negrette -  June 28, 2011 - 1:08 am

    I’ll make it a point to include the semi-colon for a moment of thought that would require a brief; pause

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  395. Carlitos -  June 28, 2011 - 1:05 am

    Shouldn’t it be:

    “The semicolon: is it the most maddening and mysterious punctuation mark?” A colon, not a semicolon should be used.

    Also:

    “Many a writer avoids it altogether.” Since “many a writer” is plural, they avoid, not avoids.

    I care not to debate any more about this article. It makes me want to barf as much as all those stuck up Katherines talking about their private school in the last Hot Word segment.

    Of course, it doesn’t matter anyway because I think I am blacklisted now, as none of my posts make it up even though they are not profane; however, they do challenge the conformance of thought expressed by most tools who visit this site.

    Reply
  396. Houman -  June 28, 2011 - 12:53 am

    I never knew what it was for until i read this, but ive avoided it.

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  397. CPT Otter Fundip -  June 28, 2011 - 12:52 am

    I use it in this Dr. Seuss quote:

    “Be who you are and say what you want; because the people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.”

    I think the fluidity of the idea and the pace of which the words come at you are in sync this way. I’m not sure how he intended it to be written.

    Reply

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