If there ever was to be a poll conducted as to which is the most misunderstood punctuation in the English language, our curvy little dotted friend, semicolon, would win hands down! It is that underused, abhorred and despised punctuation that is invariably used inappropriately most of the times. It is always used to connect those woozy disconnected sentences, drunk, loose phrases, which give the reader an illusion that the writing is profound, when, in reality, it is just jargon. In recent times, semicolon is dying a slow painful death. As such, it is high time we revive it from its numbing slumber and offer semicolon a place of glory in our literary work. Has the usage of this wormy little punctuation always baffled you, making you feel like a complete idiot, whenever someone corrected its wrong usage? If an answer to this question is a disgruntled nod or a resolve to never use a semicolon again, then read no more. However, if you are someone who wants to mend his ways and truly understand this beloved punctuation, then read on to know about the correct usage of the semicolon.
Using A Semicolon
For Connecting Independent Clauses
Two independent clauses in a sentence are connected using a semicolon. Most people use a comma in place of a semicolon, which is incorrect as a comma fails to connect to independent clauses properly. For example: Vijay likes girls; Noel likes boys!
Take this sentence into consideration. It is essential to observe that both the clauses, before and after the semicolon, are independent of each other, as they are meaningful. The use of a semicolon is the soft period and used to show the connection among the two sentences.
As A Moderate Pause
The semicolon is also seen as a moderate pause. The comma, on the contrary, is a brief pause and period (.) is a stop. Semicolon is used to connect main clauses, which have some internal punctuation.
To Connect Phrases
A semicolon is also used to connect phrases of equal rank in a single sentence. These phrases would have otherwise been separated by a comma, but we use semicolons to increase the duration of the pause. As such, semicolon used in such situation is often referred to as a super comma.
For example: The first prize was awarded to Kruthika Rao, Bangalore; second prize to Mallikarjuna Kharge, Mysore; third prize to Manjulatha, Hubli.
Between Independent Clauses & Elliptical Clauses
A semicolon is also used between independent clauses and elliptical clauses. While using a semicolon in this combination, certain words are omitted. However, they still make sense and can be understood by the reader.
For example: Rajshekar brought all the essential ingredients for the mutton curry and cooked with a maddening passion; tasted brilliant!
To Connect Independent Clauses
A semicolon is also used to connect independent clauses between conjunctive verbs like “nevertheless”, “however” and “therefore” in a sentence. You can always use a period and begin it as a new sentence; however the whole flow of the literary piece is lost in that case. A semicolon emphasizes on the connectivity and helps the line to make more sense.
For example: Doing 50 push ups a day is not easy and extremely overwhelming; however the fitness teacher demands it, and has to done!
It is important to remember that a semicolon should never be used with conjunctions. The clauses have to be separated by a comma and not a semicolon.
A semicolon should precede words like “for example”, “for instance” and “as in” in sentences. This is mainly to show the link between the sentences and the example used to illustrate the concept highlighted in the sentences; for example: role playing will play an important part in dealing with emotional reasons for addiction.