The Role of the Semicolon in Punctuation

The Role of the Semicolon in Punctuation

Among the list of punctuation marks, the semicolon seems to create the biggest confusion among a wide range of people. While some prefer avoid using it, hence, avoid making mistakes, others reckon that the knowledge of where to put the semicolon is a privilege of people with an immense intellect. Anyway, our job is to clear up why and when we place the semicolon in a sentence. Let’s start!

The semicolon between main clauses links closely related ideas that could exist as separate sentences. Two equal part or ideas are joined in order to diversify the usual sentence structures and make your sentence sound more sophisticated. For example: “To resolve a problem you should never act immediately; it is always better to give yourself some time for contemplation”.

The Semicolon vs. Coordinating Conjunctions

Usually, two main clauses that are combined with coordinating conjunctions like and, but, nor, or, so, yet, for are punctuated with a comma. However, there are cases when a sentence is too long and consists of multiple independent clauses already punctuated with commas and another comma will simply blur the line of clearness. To avoid the forthcoming misunderstanding, it is better to place the semicolon between parts with complex clauses that contain commas. For example: “If you want to resolve a problem, you shouldn’t act immediately; and if you really want to find a solution, give yourself some time for contemplation”.

The Semicolon vs. Conjunctive Adverbs and Transitional Phrases

Two independent clauses joined with the help of conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases are punctuated with the help of a semicolon. The main clauses are linked with conjunctive adverbs to show some contrast, cause, and effect, comparison or any other relationships between the sentences despite the fact these two parts are independent and could exist on their own. To conjunctive adverbs belong: hence, finally, besides, moreover, nevertheless, then, thus, consequently and etc. To transitional phrases belong: after all, for example, as a result, in conclusion, for instance, on the contrary, on the other hand, and etc. For example: “To resolve a problem you should never act immediately; therefore, it is always better to give yourself some time for contemplation”.

The Semicolon is used to divide certain items in the long lists of something. You can’t go without commas in sentences where something is enumerated. For this reason, to separate a group of certain items from a group of other items, it is recommended to use a semicolon. For instance, if you separate items in complex lists that already have commas, you avoid confusion between these lists. For example: “There are always a few ways to resolve a problem: to act immediately, which is unwise and stupid; to give yourself some time for contemplation, which is a smart option; or ask someone for help as one head is good and two is better”.

As you see, even the trickiest punctuation mark as the semicolon becomes quite clear after examination the rules of its usage. Don’t let your uncertainness or unawareness of grammar deprive you of the right to diversify your writing style and sound smart. Learn with us and don’t limit yourself in using such a helpful punctuation tool as the semicolon. By the way, there is one more informal usage of the semicolon - as a part of wing emojis.

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