Of all the characters on the keyboard, the most hated one is usually the semicolon (you know, the one you use to make a winking smiley!).
But semicolons are nothing to be afraid of.
Pay attention, and you'll know how to use one in no time! A semicolon connects two related sentences.
It's as simple as that! All you have to do is check that, if you replaced the semicolon with a period, both sentences would be intact; if both halves are complete sentences, you're done! That was a good example.
Lily liked picking flowers; dandelions were her favorite.In your mind, go back and read the first half of that sentence (the part before the semicolon).
It would be able to stand as a complete sentence if it ended with a period.
The same is true for the second half.
Here's an example of misusing a semicolon:
Lily liked picking flowers; especially dandelions.The first half is a complete sentence, but "Especially dandelions.
" is not a sentence itself.
This is an easy mistake, but it's also one that's easy to recognize, now that you know what you're doing! Now try testing yourself with this example:
Lily liked picking lots of flowers; dandelions, marigolds, and tulips.If you said that was wrong, you're right! Semicolons are not used to begin lists; that's what colons are for! There is one other way to properly use semicolons that does not fit in this rule.
You can use semicolons to help commas in lists.
Check out this example:
Lily liked picking flowers: dandelions, her favorite; marigolds, which are patterned; and tulips, which smell good.Each of the items in the list included commas in it, so if commas were also used to separate the items, the reader would have gotten confused.
Look at the sentence again with commas used:
Lily liked picking flowers: dandelions, her favorite, marigolds, which are patterned, and tulips, which smell good.Now you have a hard time telling if dandelions or marigolds are Lily's favorites! That's why the list needed both semicolons and commas.
So, if you're ready to impress someone by using a semicolon, remember the two situations when semicolons are used: to join two complete sentences, and to replace commas in complicated lists where just having commas might be confusing.
If you remember those two rules, you'll probably be better at using semicolons than anyone you know!