Let’s talk punctuation! One of my favorites is the semi-colon. The semi-colon is often abused or under-used. So let’s read a little something about it really fast, okay?
Okay! Semi-colons! Yay!
Appropriate for dividing up thoughts that would be technically incorrect with a comma but are too closely related to be different sentences! Also useful for separating items in a series when commas are part of the items themselves!
So what’s wrong with the semi-colon? What happened to my dear friend the semi-colon?
Teachers aren’t teaching it.
Simple enough, eh? But not really. Why aren’t teachers teaching it?
Because of certain education-related programs that require certain things to be taught for standardized testing. There’s no time left in the school year for something often seen as superfluous anyway.
And even if there is time in the school year for the semi-colon, most people don’t really know how to use them anyway, so the teacher doesn’t teach it. And if they do teach it, the message just doesn’t get through to the students. Because nobody in the school system really gets how to explain punctuation in a way that teaches students how to use it correctly.
But it’s so useful! It really is!
Let me show you! I’ll start off with its lesser-known function.
“She hates the big, purple meanies; the silly, squirmy babies; and the slimy, icky, sticky slugs.”
Without the semi-colons? “The big” is its own item. “The big” what?? Sure, with context clues, you can figure it out. But it just becomes a big mess. You shouldn’t have to untangle items from each other.
Let’s take a look at it. “She hates the big, purple meanies, the silly, squirmy babies, and the slimy, icky, sticky slugs.”
Ew. That just looks bad. Let’s not do that again.
So what about the other use?
“She was lonely; the emptiness was overwhelming.” vs. “She was lonely. The emptiness was overwhelming.”
I’m all for short sentences. But sometimes they just look weird and out of place. In the case above, there’s really no need for “She was lonely” to be on its own. But anything else is incorrect! The semi-colon keeps the two related thoughts together without making a comma splice.
In short, don’t be afraid to use a punctuation mark if you know how! Wield it as well as you can. And there are certain people who will be impressed with your knowledge and application of it. I once had a professor look over something I had written (a 10-page research paper) and ran over to the office next to hers to show the professor in there that I had used semi-colons correctly. She was nothing short of ecstatic. Not because I’d had problems with semi-colons and had overcome them. Just because it was such a rare thing.
So go out and use your semi-colons wisely, my friends!