Semicolons have become a staple in mental health, used as a positive symbol to stay persistent and keep on going. Its re-introduction into pop culture has given it much attention, leaving many scratching their heads regarding how to use it. Proper use of semicolons makes writing look more sophisticated and polished, used to link ideas and show thought processes.
Why is the semicolon crucial for your writing, and how can you use it more? Marketing by Margaret has answered that and more below.
What Is a Semicolon?
Commas, colons, and semicolons. These three punctuation marks often get grouped together, used interchangeably – and often incorrectly. The colon is the two-dot punctuation mark meant to show that new information is coming.
The semicolon, however, is used to join two things together. In a shape that looks like a comma below a dot, the semicolon shows relatedness between two sentences, emphasizing the continuation that adds just a touch more information to the ideas previously introduced.
Why Is the Semicolon Important?
When it comes to written works, conveying your message is critical. The written word is easily misconstrued due to its lack of tone. Adding punctuation works to bring written works to life by sprinkling emphasis, pauses, and questions. While we know the role of exclamation marks and question marks well, more conspicuous punctuations like the colon and semicolon throw us for a loop.
Semicolons are essential because they work to link two ideas together. Using them makes sentences more sense, opinions are more accurately conveyed, and article structure is more digestible. Proper semicolon use elevates written works overall and is an essential tool for beginner and professional writers.
Common Semicolon Errors
It might not come as a big surprise but, the semicolon is one of the most misused punctuations. Because they have a rep for adding a hint of sophistication to most writing, some rookie writers drown their academic papers and detailed literature analyses with them.
Like any other form of punctuation, the semicolon should be used sparingly. Sprinkle them in to emphasize points or add a sudden pause for reflection to let your brilliant ideas soak in. While easier said than done, learning about common mistakes can help you decide when semicolons are appropriate for your thoughts.
Most Common Forms of Semicolon Misuse:
Contrary to popular belief, the colon, not the semicolon, is used to introduce a list.
Ex. My favorite books are: The Fountainhead, Frankenstein, and Beloved
However, when it comes to items in a list that have commas, semicolons are the clear winner.
Ex. My idea of a perfect vacation would include a remote, luxurious, and breathtaking landscape; encourage me to breathe, reflect, and meditate; and make everyday problems seem trivial.
Joining Unrelated Sentences
We’ve all heard that semicolons help us join two complete sentences. However, it cannot just be any sentence. These sentences must be related in some way, explaining the correction before it.
Ex. It was sunny; I wore a sundress
As opposed to
It was sunny; ice cream is a delicious treat.
Though this may sound like common sense, this semicolon mistake is a pretty popular one. Instead of adding a period and separating the sentences, some writers will leave the semicolon, leaving readers to ponder just what message they’re trying to convey.
Linking Independent Clauses
Recalling grammar learned in middle school is challenging for most out there. Independent clauses were likely to cause confusion, with many getting clauses and sentences mixed up. We typically see these in cause-and-effect sentences – where a semicolon is used between them. However, what many fail to add, is a necessary transition word between the two.
Ex. The book was a masterpiece; the author received a lot of praise.
While this sentence could work, it could be better written. You could just simply say: Because the book was a masterpiece, the author received a lot of praise.
The proper use of a semicolon between two independent clauses would look something like this:
Ex. The book was a masterpiece; therefore, the writer received a high grade.
Proofreading For Proper Semicolon Use
When checking your writing for proper semicolon use, there are a few things to keep a look out for. First of all, the semicolon is used:
- When two sentences are so closely related that a period just won’t do
- In place of a traditional connecting word like “and”, “but”, or “or.”
- When colons cannot be used (given the fragments meet some criterion)
Once those ideas are understood, you can start checking your writing for common errors when using semicolons. Some of the most effective ways to proofread for punctuation including commas, colons, and semicolons are listed below.
Many times when reading, we skip right over punctuations – especially when it’s our own work. When proofreading for punctuation specifically, it’s recommended that you emphasize them by circling them. Got for an eye-catching color like red or yellow so your eyes know where to stop while proofreading.
Semicolons are incredible – even more so when you know how to use them properly! However, there is such a thing as overuse. If you notice too many semicolons spread throughout your writing, you may want to take it easy and switch it up a bit.
Remember, semicolons emphasize things, and you can’t emphasize everything in your articles, essays, and academic papers.
Ask key questions
Check for proper use of semicolons by asking key questions like:
- Are these two sentences complete?
- Could I add the word and?
- Could I use a comma?
These questions can help you determine whether you have a good, correct sentence that adds the touch of sophistication you were hoping for.
Semicolons are probably the most trending punctuation mark out there. While it works great as a small tattoo, within written works, one must consider the tone, message, and overall emphasis before using them.
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