FC: The Semicolon | ; | Correct and Incorrect Uses of | Megan Sweeney
1: Before we get to the examples, I should explain how to use a semicolon. There are quite a few accepted ways to insert one into a sentence: | One use for a semicolon is linking two independent clauses that are related. "I went to the store; it didn't have the product I needed." | Each sentence could stand by itself, but it is appropriate to link them with a semicolon because they deal with the same subject, more so than the sentences that would be surrounding them. | Another use is in lists, where each listed object also contains commas within the explanation. "Fates were offered to Corfu, the Greek island; Morocco; Elba, in the Mediterranean, and Paris. Margaret thought about it. She had been to Elba once and had found it dull; to Morocco, and found it too colorful" (Truss126). | Without the semicolons, these sentences would be riddled with commas. The semicolons are isolating the object and it's explanation for easier comprehension. | Similarly, between two independent clauses that are linked with a transition. "I went to the store she recommended; nevertheless, the product I needed wasn't there." | With the linking words, a pause is taken between each clause, distinguishing the two points established in the sentence.
2: Correct and Incorrect Usage
3: “Playfully, he’d ask her out; just as playfully she’d turn him down, and the whole office was in on the joke” (Gerritsen 47). | This is correct because the semicolon separates two independent clauses that relate to each other
4: “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go which makes you stronger” (Herman Hesse). | This is incorrect because a semicolon is meant to take the place of words such as 'and' or 'but'. A comma would be of better use in this sentence.
5: “Black Lung on the Rise; Excessive Mining and Corporate Malfeasance to Blame” (Rawstory.com Headline). | This is correct because the semicolon separates two thoughts, paraphrasing the article's content.
6: “Nice to see Target doing something right for a change; their customer service is atrocious; but evidently their marketing is spot-on!” (Comment on msnbc article by user Heather Morris). | The second semicolon is incorrect because it is not needed. The second part of the sentence is one thought and should have a comma before the 'but'.
7: “These don’t always do the trick; you don’t have a truly precise tool to make intricate selections” (George). | This is correct. These are two dependent clauses connected with a semicolon. It is seen as a soft period, and shows that the two sentences relate to each other more than they would the sentences around them.
8: “As one of many who help people with their own problems; it's great to read a refresher thought for those of us who help and refresh others!” (J. Calderon, Comment on a fastcompany.com article). | Incorrect. This sentence is made up of a dependent clause and an independent clause. In this case, a comma would be the correct punctuation for this sentence, not the semicolon.
9: “I like work; it fascinates me” (Jerome K. Jerome). | This is correct because both clauses are independent and the comma indicates they refer to each other.
10: This is incorrect because none of the objects in this list have internal punctuation, so separating them with commas would not be confusing to the reader. Also, the 'and' after the second semicolon is not necessary. | “... appearing in a media conference that worked for him on every level: it was environmental; it was caring; and the grievance to elephants was outrageous” (Toohey).
11: “The U.S. government has an active presence on Chinese social media sites; many U.S. officials in China have individual Weibo pages, and the embassy in Beijing and consulate departments update their own sites with remarks by American officials, press releases and videos” (US/China Media Account Disappears). | This is correct because each sentence is independent and the semicolon indicates the explanation of how the US is present in Chinese media.
12: "The elevator ride was short; we stepped put into what looked like a posh office reception area" (Meyer 463). | Although technically in the right format for the use of a semicolon, neither one relates to the other, so this is incorrect and the two clauses should not be joined into a single sentence. A period would be of better use here.
13: “Jobless Claims Report Affected by Year-Over-Year Change in Seasonal Adjustment Factor; AP, Others Overlook” (Blumer). | This is correct because the semicolon separates the second part of the sentence that has internal punctuation from the first part. This headline explains the problem and then lists who overlooked it. The semicolon avoids comma splicing
14: "Customers of the Portland Water Bureau west of the Willamette River within Portland city limits; the Burlington, Valley View, Palatine Hills, Lake Grove and West Slope water districts; and the city of Tigard should all boil their water, the bureau said" (Bloom). | This is correct because the sentence is listing places that use the Portland Water Bureau. Since one of the points, the water districts, contains internal punctuation, semicolons are needed to avoid the confusion that would occur if everything was separated by commas.
15: “In books I find the dead as if they were alive; from books come forth the laws of peace.” - Richard de Bury | This is correct because the semicolon explains the relation of the two sentences, and if there was a comma, the sentence would be run-on and ungrammatical.
16: "Christians I met most often thought sex was vulgar and celibacy wasn’t; that humans are born with sin and prone toward evil; that we are either going to heaven or hell" (Waldro). | This is correct because the semicolons join related clauses in a list that, if joined with commas, the sentence would be a comma splice.
17: “Reports of the glare have also enhanced the hotel's public profile, though almost certainly not in the way its owners would like; Yahoo! searches for Vdara have spiked by nearly 19,000 percent in the past 24 hours” (Guests). | This is correct because both clauses are independent, and there is no coordinating conjunction between them.
18: "The killer failed; the people have won," Mr Stoltenberg said" (Bevanger). | This is correct because the semicolon joins two related independent clauses
19: “The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it's a form of mesmerism” (Fields). | This is correct because semicolon splits two related independent clauses, preventing the sentence from being a run-on.
20: "Weise and Gembrowski reported from San Diego; Bello from McLean, Va.; Johnson from Washington, D.C. Contributing: Trevor Hughes in Aurora, Colo., and the Associated Press" (Weise). | This is correct because the semicolons are separating items in a list that have internal punctuation.
21: “She had no time for pleasure; she ate only to refuel for the night, a night that she did not look forward to” (Gerritsen 23). | This is correct because the semicolon keeps the sentence from being a run on.
22: Sources | Blumer, Tom. "Change in Seasonal Adjustment Factor; AP, Others Overlook." News Busters. N.p., 21 July 2012. Web.
23: Bevanger, Lars. "Norway Remembers Utoeya and Oslo Victims, One Year on." BBC News. N.p., n.d. Web.