Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Semicolon is Everywhere

Image result for semicolon tattooSuddenly, the semicolon is a very popular tattoo.  It is a sign that "the sentence is not over yet" for people struggling with mood disorders and mental illness.

"A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life." 

Consequently, it seems in questionable taste to now discuss proper use of the semicolon; yet, I just noticed several places in my student's essay where a semicolon would make it easier to read.

In the sentence above, you see a semicolon before "yet."  I would normally put a comma before "yet" since "yet" is a conjunction joining two complete sentences as we discussed here.  I chose a semicolon because there are already commas in the sentence, and the punctuation before a conjunction joining two sentences carries a particular heft. 

Here are the sentences from WW's essay.  How should they be punctuated?
  • 1.  Unfortunately, our chosen topic did prove to be difficult to research and our presentation was scattered, vague, and far too broad.
  • 2.  I dont want to become more persuasive because I think that all my ideas are great, but in this instance and others like it, I failed to convince my group not to make a poor decision.
My student did manage to put a semicolon in his essay - in the wrong place.  He wrote
  • 3.  I find that I can often miss what the other person is saying; not on an emotional or subtext level but I often find it difficult to simply pay attention

The semicolon is a confusing punctuation mark.  It is most commonly used to join two short complete sentences when it seems like a good idea.  It indicates more than a comma, but less than a period.  In the examples above, a semicolon helps a reader navigate a sentence with several periods.  There are other uses, including now as a symbol of hope and support for people with mental illnesses

Answers
1.  Put the semicolon after "research."
2.  Put the semicolon after "great."
3.  Change the semicolon to a comma and put the semicolon before "but."  It's not a great sentence, but we are just here now to edit semicolons.

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