Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Quick 5 Point Novel Guide to the Semicolon

I want to start by answering a quick question I received. 
What is the difference between a colon and a semicolon? 

A lot! 

Do not let the fact the share the same surname make you think they are closely related, they are barely second-cousins, if they were royalty they could marry. 

The better question is: what is the difference between a semicolon and a period? They are almost brother and sister, if they were royalty they would need to limit their relationship to nocturnal incest.

But there is so much to a semicolon, I felt it deserved its own Quick 5 Point Novel Guide.


1. Simple Structure

No blank space precedes a semicolon. One blank space follows a semicolon.


2. Speeding Ticket-period, semicolon, and comma

The speed at which a sentence flows is affected by the use of a semicolon. For example:

The clock is ticking. My boss called. The cab comes. (This sentence is too slow for the flow of time expressed.)

The clock is ticking; my boss called; the cab comes. (This is faster but still too slow.)

The clock is ticking, my boss called, the cab comes. (This is the one.)


3. A Semicolon tells you there is more to come in this sentence, it is building up

The first thing to realize about a semicolon is that it can link two independent clauses, sentences which could stand alone and make sense.

Kevin’s heart told him move to London. His head told him to stay put.

Kevin’s heart told him move to London; his head told him to stay put.

Why not just use a period or a comma with coordinating conjunction (a joining word—for another lesson)? 

Well, the sentence can mean difference things with difference emphasis. 

A semicolon may be used instead of a period to separate two main clauses that are closely connected in meaning or that express a clear contrast.

Jim watched the world cup on TV. He watched TV in the shed.  There is no link between the two sentences. We can’t say Jim watched the world cup in the shed.

Jim watched the world cup on TV, and he watched TV in the shed. He watched World Cup on TV and watches some more TV in the shed. He might watch the world cup on the TV in the shed.   

Jim watched the world cup on TV; he watched TV in the shed. This implies a close interrelationship, Jim watched the World Cup in the shed.


4. Use a Semicolon before introductory words

You use a semicolon when you are using introductionary words such as:

i.e. – I love flavored ice cream; i.e. chocolate and vanilla

For example – I love flavored ice cream; for example, chocolate and vanilla

e.g. – I love flavored ice cream; e.g. chocolate and vanilla

Namely  – I love flavored ice cream; namely, chocolate and vanilla

However – I love flavored ice cream; however, not chocolate and vanilla

Therefore – I love flavored ice cream; therefore, I brought an ice cream van

That is  – I love flavored ice cream; that is, I love English flavored ice cream.

For instance – I love flavored ice cream; for instance, chocolate and vanilla


5. Use a semicolon to separate lists with items which contain commas

If you have a sentence listing items out which also have commas in them it can be confusing; for example:

My favorite players are Billy wright, Wolves, Kevin Keegan, Liverpool, and John Robertson, Nottingham Forest.

Using a semicolon:

My favorite players are Billy wright, Wolves; Kevin Keegan, Liverpool; and John Robertson, Nottingham Forest.