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Words of Wisdom

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition.

— Graham Greene

Howdy Ags! Welcome to Write Right, the student podcast of the Texas A&M University Writing Center. And today’s lesson is on the proper way to use semicolons. When used correctly, they can strengthen and fine tune your sentences; however, there are certain rules to consider when implementing them.
First of all, you may ask, “Why would I want to use a semicolon in the first place?” Well you can use a semicolon when you want to join two independent clauses to emphasize their close relationship. The definition of an independent clause is any clause that can stand alone as a sentence, which means that, by itself, it is a complete thought with a subject and a predicate.  To join your clauses, you essentially have two options. The first one is to use a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). Your other option is to use a semicolon. Remember, these two options are mutually exclusive. You use one or the other, but not both.
Here is an example of two complete sentences that are very closely related. “My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip. My roommate prefers rocky road.” To join them, you have option of adding “and” like this. Your other option is to delete the “and” and insert a semicolon like so .There are other great ways to use semicolons. For example, if your sentences contain lots and lots of commas, the result can often be a comma splice. A comma splice is considered a grammatical error and should be avoided.
Look at the example here. “I had a ton of homework to do last night, so I went to see Star Wards in 3D; it was time well wasted.” If a comma had been used instead of a semicolon, it would have been considered a comma splice. Semicolons also can come in handy when creating lists. A list can be anything from a string of cities and states to names, dates, etc. Rather using a lot of commas, you can use semicolons to separate the city and state names. This results in a much cleaner look, like in this example here: “I have completed triathlons in many different cities across the country, including: San Antonio, Texas; Denver Colorado; St. Louis, Missouri; and Little Rock, Arkansas.”
Another instance when a semicolon would come in handy would be when you want to add descriptions to your list. Use a semicolon to separate each element in the list. For example: “My favorite fictional characters include Ron Weasley, a red head with an abnormal fear of spiders; Katniss, who can shoot an arrow better than anyone; and Princess Belle, who loves to read.”
To wrap things up, keep in mind the simple rules to follow. You can use a semicolon to emphasize a close relationship between two main clauses and don’t use at the same time as a coordinating conjunction. As you can see, the semicolon is a very handy piece of punctuation, and now you know how to use it correctly. Have fun with it! Thanks for listening, and we will see you next time on Wright Right.

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