Sunday, June 13, 2010

Better Grammar in Five Minutes: Semicolons

Just thought I'd write up a quick piece on grammar for those who want to be more proficient at it.  I'll do a quick glance at semicolons (;) compared to comma splices(,).

First things first: a semicolon is practically equivalent to a period (.).  The only difference is that a semicolon is used to note the relationship between the second part of a sentence and the first.

For example:

Correct:  The World Cup starts today.  I am going to watch it.
Correct:  The World Cup starts today; I am going to watch it.

If a writer is adding emphasis to the second part, that is when to use a semicolon.  In every other case, use a period.

Second things second:  semicolons do not equal a comma.  Remember, semicolons are practically equal to a period; commas, on the other hand, continue a sentence.  Also, see that I just used a semicolon in the sentence before?  I could have used a period, but since the two subjects were related, I used a semicolon instead.  Using a comma would have been incorrect.

For example:

Correct:  According to that person over there, your name is Michael.  Is that true?
Incorrect:  According to that person over there; your name is Michael.  Is that true?

The trick is to take out the semicolon and see if the passages would make sense as separate sentences.  Using the incorrect example above, one can tell that the use of the semicolon is incorrect by changing the semicolon to a period:

Incorrect:  According to that person over there.  Your name is Michael.  Is that true?

See?  Now hopefully the two people out there who read this will be better at grammar.

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3 comments:

Harrison said...

Yea but you have to know how to speak English and write to know how to use it.

Michael said...

True; most illegal aliens shouldn't read this.

Alezend said...

Que?