Posted by: Jack Henry | April 18, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Rule 6 – Use Semicolons with Care

We’re almost there, folks! Today is rule six from Ben Yagoda’s article “7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to.” Note: The two of us in Symitar Editing do not support Mr. Yagoda’s semicolon bashing. In fact, my faithful co-editor, Donna, has declared an undying love for this punctuation mark. 🙂

Rule 6: Use Semicolons with Care

I sometimes say that when you feel like using a semicolon, lay lie down till the urge goes away. But if you just can’t resist, remember that there are really only two proper uses for this piece of punctuation. One is to separate two complete clauses (a construction with a subject and verb that could stand on its own as a sentence). I knocked on the door; no one answered. The second is to separate list items that themselves contain punctuation. Thus, The band played Boise, Idaho; Schenectady, New York; and Columbus, Ohio.

Do not use a semicolon in place of a colon, for example, There is only one piece of punctuation that gives Yagoda nightmares; the semicolon.

One more thing: Be careful when spelling the word semicolon. It is one word without a hyphen. A semi-colon is not punctuation; it is what you get when you have a bad gastrointestinal surgeon.

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