Prepare yourselves and please stop shaking in fear. The misunderstood semicolon is something to embrace and love, and it certainly isn’t anything to get yourselves worked up over.
No doubt many of you want to see the proof. This we can do.
Semicolons must be used when a sentence contains at least two independent clauses. This is so we avoid the dreaded comma splice (the focus of today’s quick and easy post).
INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: AN INDEPENDENT CLAUSE IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE ALONE.
All independent clauses have a subject and a verb: Sue drank.
Some independent clauses also have objects: Sue drank the wine.
S V OBJ
Some have describing nouns or adjectives in addition to the subject and verb:
Sue drank the wine quickly. (She can’t help being a lush. We love her anyway.)
S V OBJ ADV
HINT: An independent clause can be short or long, so don’t be fooled by length alone. You must focus on the type of words used in the clause or sentence.
So, how does that relate to using a semicolon?
It’s all about rules. Learn the rules, just like you would learn a rule in mathematics, and it’s a piece of cake. (Yes, let’s ignore all of the grammar ‘rules’ that are broken for the interim.) The beautiful thing about punctuation is that it’s not about interpreting, inferring or deducing. Nope. It really is about learning, understanding and then following the rules.
Below is the basic premise:
Independent clause ; Independent clause
Independent clause . Independent clause
Independent clause ; Conjunctive Adverb , Independent clause
Conjunctive adverbs: accordingly, furthermore, moreover, similarly, also, hence, namely, still, anyway, however, nevertheless, then, besides, incidentally, next, thereafter, certainly, indeed, nonetheless, therefore, consequently, instead, now, thus, finally, likewise, otherwise, undoubtedly, further, meanwhile.
So, DO NOT use a comma (,) to join two independent clauses, (they’ll give your editor a headache and make them break out in a rash, not a pretty sight) especially when you are following grammar rules to the T. Are there exceptions to this? Of course. This is the wonderful and frustrating world of the English language, grammar and all it entails. If in doubt, stick to the rules, and then seek advice.