The Oatmeal created one of the greatest posters ever on how to use a semicolon. I sat directly in front of this poster for the entire semester I took WRA 202 (Professional Writing course) and looking at and reading it all semester totally increased my confidence in using the semicolon. I am now a semicolon fanatic! I love the comic style formatting The Oatmeal used to describe appropriate use of “the most feared punctuation on earth”. They documented these rules in a way that is not only interesting to read through, but sticks with the reader in a way they will always remember. So take a look at the poster, and below I’ve highlighted some of the points.
The most common way to utilize the semicolon is to connect two independent clauses. The two statements read aloud with a period have a greater break between them – one would take a breath between the two if this were the case, but would not if the a semicolon was substituted for the period.
- If you have two independent clauses, meaning each could stand alone as their own sentences, it is then, okay , to use a semicolon.
- You should use a semicolon when you want to form a bond between two statements, typically when they are related to or in contrast with one another.
- DON’T use a semicolon with conjunctions. (Conjunctions are words like: and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet.) Commas are used in these situations.
- Pause factor: Comma – brief pause, Semicolon – moderate pause, Period – complete stop.
- Use a semicolon to connect sentences that contain internal punctuation.
- Use a semicolon as a super-comma: if you need to make a list of items that are separated with a comma. Often occurs when listing names, dates, and descriptions.
Check out the poster for memorable examples of these key concepts to remember when using the semicolon. The Oatmeal really did a solid job when explaining when to use and not use the semicolon.