The Naked Writer

The Dreaded Semicolon

I thought about which mistakes my students at Writer’s Digest University make most frequently, and the first one that came to mind was the use of the semicolon. Students (and others, no doubt) seem to think that the semicolon can be used however they like. As with most things in life, though, we can’t simply spring into action. We need a rationale. We need to follow the rules previously set by society. Here are the semicolon rules:

The semicolon may be used to join/separate two independent clauses that are very closely related.

Example: The dog was alive; her mother was dead. (From Question Woman & Howling Sky by G. Miki Hayden–coming soon from Portals Publishing).

The semicolon may also be used with conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

Example: Maybe all this was true, or perhaps only some; however, such was the information Maya had put together and that she believed in.  (From Question Woman & Howling Sky by G. Miki Hayden–coming soon from Portals Publishing).

The only use for a semicolon between dependent phrases or clauses is when separating a list of complex (with internal punctuation), complicated, or lengthy elements.

Example: Armadas of icebergs drifted south, melting as they went, spelling doom for such harbor towns as Portland, Maine; New York City; Barcelona, Spain; Washington, D.C.; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Shanghai, China; and coastal cities everywhere, worldwide. (From Question Woman & Howling Sky by G. Miki Hayden–coming soon from Portals Publishing).

You’ll find lots more about semicolon use in The Naked Writer by G. Miki Hayden, the second edition coming in December from Curiosity Quills.

If you have a writing question, ask it here in the comments section, and I’ll answer.

 

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The Naked Writer

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