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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Let’s begin with a simple sentence: Grandma stays up too late.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Now let’s expand on that a bit: Grandma stays up too late. She’s afraid she’s going  to miss something. This is OK. Two independent ideas,  separated by a period.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
What if we try to combine the two ideas? Grandma stays up too late, she’s afraid she’s going  to miss something.
Something’s wrong. We connected two independent clauses with only a comma. The dreaded COMMA SPLICE!

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
We could insert a coordinating conjunction: Grandma is afraid she’ll miss something, so she  stays up too late. This is better! Note the comma that accompanies  the coordinating conjunction.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
We could also try subordinating one of these ideas: Grandma stays up too late because she’s afraid  she’s going to miss something. Notice that the comma disappeared. One idea (the  second one) now depends on the other; it has  become a dependent clause.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
But let’s try something else.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Let’s try using a semicolon in this sentence. Grandma stays up too late  she’s afraid she’s going  to miss something. Notice there is no conjunction used with this  semicolon – either subordinating or coordinating. Just the semicolon, all by itself.

;

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Sometimes semicolons are accompanied by  conjunctive adverbs – words such as however,  moreover, therefore, nevertheless, consequently,  as a result. Grandma is afraid she’s going to miss something; 

as a result, she stays up too late.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
       Notice the pattern:

; as a result, 
     semicolon + conjunctive adverb + comma

This is a typical construction with semicolons.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
There is one other use of the semicolon: to help us  sort out monster lists, like this one: monster lists

The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut, Virginia Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut, Paul Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut, and Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington, Connecticut.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Be careful where you insert semicolons in this  sentence.
The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut; Virginia Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut ; Paul Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut ; and Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington, Connecticut.

Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Now you know everything you’ll ever need to know  about using semicolons!

This PowerPoint presentation was created by Charles Darling, PhD Professor of English and Webmaster Capital Community College Hartford, Connecticut copyright November 1999