By Kayla McKnight
The semicolon has been my biggest fear since freshmen year. It’s clear to me now that I didn’t know how to use it properly in those early (my sincere apologies to my English 101 professor). So, I thought I would teach my fellow Knight Readers what the semicolon is, and how it’s used.
What is the Semicolon?
Besides being used for the winky face ;), semicolons usually indicate a pause between two main clauses. You could also say, that in comparison to the comma, the semicolon is the Superman to the comma’s Clark Kent. In other words, the semicolon is a lot stronger and provides a more profound pause than a comma could achieve.
I prefer DC over Marvel, and I love Batman.
I love Batman; I watched the cartoon a lot growing up.
With the semicolon, you get more detail out of your sentence, while both segments still relate to the same topic. Now let’s move on.
Ways to Use the Tricky Semicolon
If you have two independent and closely related clauses… (a what?)
In other words, if you have two independent sentences that can stand on their OWN, then you may use the semicolon to tie the clauses together. Let’s look at some examples shall we?
You did your best; now let’s hope you passed that exam.
Kevin Hart is one of the best comedians; he always makes me laugh.
I love scary movies, especially the more recent one I saw called Split; on the other hand, my roommate prefers Disney movies above anything else.
Another way is by using the semicolon to join two independent clauses is with an Adverbial Conjunction. An adverbial conjunctions are transition words. They include the following: however, otherwise, therefore, similarly, hence, on the other hand, then, consequently, also, and thus.
Let’s take a look at adverbial conjunctions in action:
My dog loves to sleep in my bed; however, he takes up all the space.
I love taking pictures of the colorful scenery; therefore, autumn is my favorite time of the year.
Lastly, you can use semicolons in a series of independent clauses that already include the use of commas.
Kayla has three siblings: Mea, who takes all of Kayla’s clothes; Carlie, who uses all of Kayla’s makeup; and Aiden, who is Kayla’s favorite because he doesn’t touch her stuff.
The semicolon can be tricky to use at times. It’s almost a blessing and a curse in disguise; it helps to make your sentences flow coherently when read aloud. But if used incorrectly, it can turn any good paper into a monstrosity.
Before I leave you, I will give you a few tips to help (just in case you get stuck!)
- Write a full sentence
Ex. Kayla had been trying to start writing her paper for two hours.
- Then write a closely related sentence
Ex. She was struggling with a topic to choose.
- Insert the semicolon in-between the two to tie the sentences together!
Ex. Kayla had been trying to start writing her paper for two hours; she was struggling with a topic to choose.
- Make sure you read your work aloud! Sometimes you’ll find that the sentences can be combined.
- Practice, practice, practice: By reading works that use the semicolon and taking the time to work on your own, you’ll be a master in no time!
Good luck and just keep writing!