Tuesday Tidbits #3- How to use semicolons

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you’re all having a great week so far!

Fun fact about me: I have a favorite punctuation mark, and, you guessed it, it’s the semicolon. Why? That’s a great question. Maybe it’s because it took so long for me to understand it. Maybe it’s because, once I finally did understand, I found it so useful. Maybe it’s because it’s so widely misunderstood. Whatever the reason, I love the semicolon, and as bloggers, writers, and even readers, it’s helpful to understand how this little buddy works.

I’ve seen a lot of confusion around the semicolon, so I’m gonna do my best to explain its two main uses, because I think the semicolon is underappreciated.

Main use #1 is “to connect two closely related independent clauses.”

When I first heard this, it was more frustrating than helpful, but it’s actually simpler than it sounds. All this means is if the thing can be broken into two complete sentences, but you want your reader to know the two ideas are closely linked, use a semicolon. FOR EXAMPLE:

“Ice cream is my favorite dessert; it really sucks that it’s not part of a complete breakfast.”

Both parts of that statement can make their own independent sentence: “I like ice cream” and “It really sucks that it’s not part of a complete breakfast” are both complete sentences. BUT I want you to know they are closely linked in my brain (possibly because I really wanted ice cream for breakfast) so I used a semicolon to connect two separate sentences into one related thought.

If the two thoughts CANNOT make up two different, complete sentences, use a comma or colon instead.

Main use #2 is to separate lists that already have commas.

I call this one the list within lists rule. Basically, to avoid too many commas, use semicolons to separate lists within lists. FOR EXAMPLE:

“I have favorites for each meal. For breakfast, I prefer cereal, bagels, or ice cream; for lunch, I like fruits, wraps, and sandwiches; for dinner, I’m all about fajitas.

Because I have a comma to separate each meal option, I use a semicolon to separate each meal group. Basically, semicolons separate the bigger list pieces from the smaller lists inside.


Thanks for reading!

Did this help you understand semicolons a little better? Do you have a favorite punctuation mark, or is that just me? Is there anything you’d like to see in a Tuesday Tidbit? Let me know in the comments below!

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3 thoughts on “Tuesday Tidbits #3- How to use semicolons

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