Writing Tip #70

Demystifying the semicolon. My newly crowned teenager said to me last week: “Mom, I just don’t get when to use the semicolon.”

“Never fear,” I said to her (yes, I actually said that). “The semicolon is actually a pretty easy punctuation concept to understand.”

And it is, as hoity-toity as the darn thing seems. Think of it as a “soft” period. So instead of having two sentences come one right after the other, a semicolon will link those sentences so that they are one — quite a handy little tool. For example:

My son Griffin is hungry. He’s making himself some Ramen noodle soup.

Those sentences are perfectly fine, as is. But you can also replace that first period with a semicolon, get rid of the capital “H” in “He’s” and connect them as one sentence:

My son Griffin is hungry; he’s making himself some Ramen noodle soup.

Why on earth would you want to do this? Well, sometimes you want to form a bond between two sentences (or independent clauses), usually because they are related in some way. It’s a style choice that tells the reader that those two complete thoughts are meant to be linked.

And the best part? No conjunctions — ands, ifs or buts — are needed. Just the semi. All by its regal self.

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