Our Friend, the Semicolon

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Our Friend, the Semicolon

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A presentation on the care and feeding of semicolons...

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  1. Our Friend, the Semicolon
  2. Our Friend, the Semicolon Let’s begin with a simple sentence: Grandma stays up too late.
  3. Our Friend, the Semicolon Now let’s expand on that a bit: Grandma stays up too late. She’s afraid she’s going to miss something. This is OK. Two independent ideas, separated by a period.
  4. Our Friend, the Semicolon What if we try to combine the two ideas? Grandma stays up too late, she’s afraid she’s going to miss something. Something’s wrong. We connected two independent clauses with only a comma. The dreaded COMMA SPLICE!
  5. Our Friend, the Semicolon We could insert a coordinating conjunction: Grandma is afraid she’ll miss something, so she stays up too late. This is better! Note the comma that accompanies the coordinating conjunction.
  6. Our Friend, the Semicolon We could also try subordinating one of these ideas: Grandma stays up too late because she’s afraid she’s going to miss something. Notice that the comma disappeared. One idea (the second one) now depends on the other; it has become a dependent clause.
  7. Our Friend, the Semicolon But let’s try something else.
  8. Our Friend, the Semicolon Let’s try using a semicolon in this sentence. ; Grandma stays up too late she’s afraid she’s going to miss something. Notice there is no conjunction used with this semicolon – either subordinating or coordinating. Just the semicolon, all by itself.
  9. Our Friend, the Semicolon Sometimes semicolons are accompanied by conjunctive adverbs – words such as however, moreover, therefore, nevertheless, consequently, as a result. Grandma is afraid she’s going to miss something; as a result, she stays up too late.
  10. Our Friend, the Semicolon Notice the pattern: ; as a result, semicolon + conjunctive adverb + comma This is a typical construction with semicolons.
  11. Our Friend, the Semicolon There is one other use of the semicolon: to help us sort out monster lists, like this one: lists The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut, Virginia Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut, Paul Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut, and Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington, Connecticut.
  12. Our Friend, the Semicolon Be careful where you insert semicolons in this sentence. The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut; Virginia Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut ; Paul Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut ; and Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington, Connecticut.
  13. Our Friend, the Semicolon Now you know everything you’ll ever need to know about using semicolons!
  14. This PowerPoint presentation was created by Charles Darling, PhD Professor of English and Webmaster Capital Community College Hartford, Connecticut copyright November 1999
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