Welcome back. Here's part two of my serialisation of Frederick W. Hamilton's Punctuation. Today, it's the turn of the semicolon, probably the piece of punctuation that generates the most anxiety. But it's really pretty simple. Over to you, Frederick...
The semicolon is used to denote a degree of separation greater than that indicated by the comma, but less than that indicated by the colon. It prevents the repetition of the comma and keeps apart the more important members of the sentence. The semicolon is generally used in long sentences, but may sometimes be properly used in short ones.
Rules for the Use of the Semicolon
1. When the members of a compound sentence are complex or contain commas.
Franklin, like many others, was a printer; but, unlike the others, he was student, statesman, and publicist as well.
With ten per cent of this flour the bread acquired a slight flavor of rye; fifteen per cent gave it a dark color; a further addition made the baked crumb very hard.
The meeting was composed of representatives from the following districts: Newton, 4 delegates, 2 substitutes; Dorchester, 6 delegates, 3 substitutes; Quincy, 8 delegates, 4 substitutes; Brookline, 10 delegates, 5 substitutes.
2. When the members of a compound sentence contain statements distinct, but not sufficiently distinct to be thrown into separate sentences.
Sit thou a patient looker-on; Judge not the play before the play be done;
Her plot has many changes; every day
Speaks a new scene. The last act crowns the play.
3. When each of the members of a compound sentence makes a distinct statement and has some dependence on statements in the other member or members of the sentence.
Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath furnished her table.
Each member of this sentence is nearly complete. It is not quite a full and definite statement, but it is much more than a mere amplification such as we might get by leaving out she hath every time after the first. In the former case we should use periods. In the latter we should use commas.
4. A comma is ordinarily used between the clauses of a compound sentence that are connected by a simple conjunction, but a semicolon may be used between clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs. Compare the following examples:
The play was neither edifying nor interesting to him, and he decided to change his plans.
The play was neither edifying nor interesting to him; therefore he decided to change his plans.
5. To indicate the chapter references in scriptural citations.
Matt. i: 5, 7, 9; v: 1-10; xiv: 3, 8, 27.
The semicolon should always be put outside quotation marks unless it forms a part of the quotation itself.
"Take care of the cents and the dollars will take care of themselves"; a very wise old saying.
And that's it for the semicolon. Next, that innocent-looking, yet surprisingly tricksy piece of punctuation, the dash.
“I am one of those many fools who paid a huge amount of money for a useless course. This book... has opened so many doors for me. I now look on Mike as my mentor as I embark on a career. Thank you Mike.”
Emma Steel, Proofreader and International Structural Editor.
“ I thoroughly enjoyed the course and am so glad that I decided to take it... the whole experience was invaluable. My proofreading service is now well established and your course played no small part in getting it off the ground.”
Hache L. Jones, Proofreader.
“I'd just like to thank you first of all for writing such a great, straight forward eBook, and then going above and beyond what I would even expect as a customer by providing us, completely free of charge, updated versions months later!”
Rachel Gee, Trainee Proofreader.
“What can I say? Worth every penny and then some! God Bless! This a fabulous course.”
Teresa Richardson, Proofreader.
“As someone who has effectively been proofreading for thirty years, I found Mike’s No-Nonsense Proofreading Course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of this discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it as the ideal starting point, and much more besides.”
Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
My name's Mike Sellars and I'm an experienced proofreader and the author of The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course. Click here to find out more about me.
The No-Nonsense Proofreading Course
A Fraction of the Cost of Other Proofreading Courses
Credit card and PayPal payments accepted.
“As someone who has been proofreading for 30 years, I found Mike’s course an invaluable introduction and a very useful practical guide to many aspects of the discipline. I can wholeheartedly recommend it.” Jeremy Meehan, Proofreader.
Still want to find out more? Click here.