Grammar 101: Semi-Colon

Welcome back to Grammar 101...
where I help the grammatically-challenged become proud Grammarians.
Or at least I try to! lol

With the help of some Twitter buddies, I decided to tackle the Semi-Colon today; it is one of the most feared of punctuation marks.  This tricky little guy that isn't used often because people don't know HOW to use it.  I hope to help clear that up with this lesson.

Modern definition: Used primarily to separate independent but related clauses.
{Think of it as trying to string two complete sentences together that are related to each other.  Remember: A complete sentence consists of an object, a subject and a verb.}  However, it can also be used to separate items in a series (similar in use to the comma).

 Because the semi-colon only really serves two purposes, it's rather easy to break down.

A semi-colon does NOT mark the end of a statement, but is used internally (like the comma or colon).  Semi-colons are followed by a lower case letter, unless that letter is the first letter of a proper noun.  Also, there is no space before them (like a period) but there is one space after them.


1) Between closely related independent clauses that are not connected by a coordinating conjunction.

I started Jennifer Estep's "Spider Bite" last night; my friends tell me it's a really good book.

In the above example, both halves of the sentence can be used independently because they are complete.  However, I used a semi-colon to connect them because together they form a complete thought.  In some instances you can use coordinating conjunctions such as "because", but it's not always necessary.

2) Between items in a series.

During my European trip, I visited the following cities: London, England;  Dublin, Ireland; and Edinburgh, Scotland.

In this example, the colon is used to begin the list, the comma is used to separate city and country and the semi-colon is used to separate the related "areas" from the next.

Does all that make sense?

If it does, then you are all set to use the this guy so go forth my child and fear not the use of the semi-colon.

Now the fun stuff:
This would be a good example of when to use a semi-colon.  The comma they used does not have enough of a pause and it just looks sloppy!

This is another story altogether.  This person clearly tried to get all fancy with the punctuation marks and just FAILED!!  Thanks to the grammar vigilante that tried to fix this person's wrong, wrong ways!

There is just so much wrong with this that I'm unsure of where to begin, lol.  
1) Starting with the obvious, how exactly does a falafel go about buying a person?
2) Why wouldn't they say, "here, (comma) falafels buy people."
Not done...
3) The comma they did use should be a semi-colon.

Save this statement:
"Some people buy felafels; here, felafels buy people."


Wishing you a better day than yesterday!


  1. Love this post! The semi-colon can be difficult to understand, even for grammar nerds. Well, I understand it in theory, but it's harder to execute in practice.

    One of my friends (and fellow book bloggers) has a semi-colon tattoo: :)

  2. Thanks for this. My grammar is appalling, so this helps.

  3. ha! You always find perfect examples, and explain everything so easily and clearly. Thanks!

  4. With the help of some Twitter buddies, I decided to tackle the Semi-Colon today; one of the most feared of punctuation marks.

    This sentence is incorrect. There's no need for a semi-colon, according to your post.

  5. Hi Bekka,
    As I see it, semi-colons are optional. There are few instances, that I can think of at least, where you would absolutely NEED a semi-colon.

    The use of the semi-colon can usually be replaced by a comma if you want a quick pause, a period if you want to end the sentence or a coordinating conjunction if you don't want a pause at all.

    I did correct my sentence to say "With the help of some Twitter buddies, I decided to tackle the Semi-Colon today; it is one of the most feared of punctuation marks." The reason I used the semi-colon rather than a period was because my second statement directly relates to why I'm "tackling" the semi-colon.

    Hope that makes sense.

  6. It's great to get a refresher course every once in a while. Thanks for the lesson.

  7. Ah... the ;. It's so misunderstood. LOL
    Thanks for the lesson!

  8. I taught grammar for over 30 years and I think you do a wonderful job of explaining and giving examples. Let's clone you and put you in every school!

  9. Thanks; for sharing today. OOPS! I really did enjoy this post and appreciate the help - I do consider myself grammatically challenged and always try to remember the rules, but trying and getting it right is not always the same thing :)

  10. Hahaha, I understand. I thought it was on purpose, like a little test. I have to say I really do enjoy this feature. Your example are hilarious.

  11. Great idea and potential for school library - thank you :D :D


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