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Semicolons: How important are they?. NEC FACET Center. Don’t be afraid of semicolons; they can improve your writing!. Have no fear, “Punky” is here! I fight the forces of bad punctuation. Semicolons make me nervous. I don’t know how to use them. What can semicolons do?. Semicolons can:

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Don t be afraid of semicolons they can improve your writing
Don’t be afraid of semicolons; they can improve your writing!

Have no fear, “Punky” is here! I fight the forces of bad punctuation.

Semicolons make me nervous. I don’t know how to use them.


What can semicolons do? writing!

  • Semicolons can:

  • add sentence variety.

  • correct run-on sentences.

  • rid your writing of short, choppy sentences.

  • eliminate confusion in lists of details.


Add sentence variety
Add Sentence variety writing!

We like to construct sentences with similar structure, but sometimes we need a little variety.

Semicolons can connect two complete sentences that share similar thoughts; they can also connect short, choppy sentences and separate items in a list when the items themselves also contain commas.


Example

My 7 writing!th birthday party was the best party I’ve ever had. There were pony rides and a clown. There were red and orange balloons. There were streamers hanging from the ceiling.A giant banner with “Happy Birthday” ran the length of the dining room wall. The cake was chocolate with white icing. The ice-cream was my favorite flavor: Neapolitan. I remember the day of the party was beautiful, sunny and bright, cloudless, breezy, and no rain, and everyone wore shorts and t-shirts. The best part, however, was my gift. My parents gave me a bicycle.

This paragraph contains short, choppy sentences and long lists of items. It’s too confusing!

example


Paragraph revised

My 7 writing!th birthday party was the best party I’ve ever had. There were pony rides and a clown. In addition to the red and orange balloons, there were streamers hanging from the ceiling; and a giant banner with “Happy Birthday” ran the length of the dining room wall. The cake was chocolate with white icing;furthermore, the ice-cream was my favorite flavor: Neapolitan. I remember the day of the party was beautiful, sunny and bright; cloudless, breezy, and no rain; and everyone wore shorts and t-shirts. The best part, however, was my gift. My parents gave me a bicycle.

This revision is much better!

Paragraph revised


Rule #1 writing!

Let’s practice using semicolons to break up run-on sentences.

That’s okay. I’ll show you!

Hey, wait a minute! I don’t know what a run-on sentence is.


What is a run on sentence
What is a run-on sentence? writing!

  • When two independent clauses are joined together without proper punctuation between them.

    • Ex: The suspicious man walked down the street humming to himself he knew people were watching his every move.

Independent Clause

I’m glad you asked; come on, I’ll show you!

Independent Clause

What is an independent clause?


Clause a group of words containing a subject and a verb
Clause = a group of words containing a subject and a verb. writing!

There are two types of clauses: Independent and Dependent.

  • Independent Clause

    • Contains a subject, a verb, and makes a complete thought.

    • Can stand alone as a sentence.

      Ex: The sunrisesin the east.

Subject: person or thing doing the action

Verb: action/what is being done by the subject

Complete thought


  • Dependent Clause writing!

    • Contains a subject and a verb but is missing a complete thought.

    • Cannot stand alone as a sentence.

    • Depends on an independent clause to complete the thought.

    • Is subordinate to an independent clause.

      Ex:Althoughwewent to the movies yesterday.

    • This clause does not have a complete thought; therefore, it’s a fragment rather than a complete sentence.

subject

verb

Helps show the sentence as subordinate to an independent clause.

subordinating word

Wait a minute! What is subordination?


Subordination
Subordination writing!

Subordination is when one thought in a sentence is less important than another thought.

…but not as powerful as Egyptian gods.

Egyptian kings are powerful,

Egyptian kings are subordinate to Egyptian gods.


Correcting dependent clause fragments

Ex: Although we went to the movies yesterday, writing!

Correcting dependent clause fragments

Because a dependent clause cannot stand alone, combine it with an independent clause to complete the thought and produce a complete sentence.

Dependent Clause

we still feel as though we have done nothing during spring break.

Use a comma only if the dependent clause is at the beginning of the sentence.

Now we have a complete sentence!

Independent Clause


Correcting run on sentences

The suspicious man walked down the street humming to himself he knew people were watching his every move.

Correcting run-on sentences

This is a run-on sentence. There needs to be a sentence break.


Add a semicolon between the two independent clauses! himself he knew people were watching his every move.

Okay, I understand run-ons, but how do I fix them?


Correct run ons with a semicolon
Correct run-ons with a semicolon himself he knew people were watching his every move.

Ex: The suspicious man walked down the street humming to himselfhe knew people were watching his every move.

Use a semicolon to indicate a break between two independent clauses.

;

This rule is used when the subjects of the two clauses are closely related. Think of it as a continuation of your thoughts, but they need to be broken into 2 sentences.


More examples

The computer technician said my hard drive is fried himself he knew people were watching his every move. ; it will cost hundreds of dollars to retrieve the stored information.

There’s a plane in the sky pulling a banner; it says “FREE FLYING LESSONS TODAY!”

My brother, the musician, broke his foot last night; he jumped off the stage during a concert, but no one caught him!

More examples

FREE FLYING LESSONS TODAY!


Fix the following run-ons by inserting a semicolon where necessary

Yesterday, my sister borrowed my car without asking;then she ran over a nail and popped one of the tires.

Yesterday, my sister borrowed my car without asking then she ran over a nail and popped one of the tires.

Sylvester won the pie eating contest; he ate 10 whole pies in 3 minutes.

Sylvester won the pie eating contest he ate 10 whole pies in 3 minutes.

My favorite book as a child was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing it was so funny that I read it over and over.

My favorite book as a child was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing;it was so funny that I read it over and over.

The gel inserts in my shoes are starting to rub against my toes, I should replace them with new inserts

The gel inserts in my shoes are starting to rub against my toes; I should replace them with new inserts.


Rule #2 necessary

Sometimes our essays are filled with short, choppy sentences. Let’s talk about how to fix them using semicolons.


Short choppy sentences
Short, choppy sentences necessary

They break up your writing, add confusion, and bore your reader.

Not so fast Strongman! I’m going to knock out your short, choppy sentences!

But I like short sentences. They’re safe. They make me feel like a big man. I like to knock out long sentences. Everyone should speak and write in short sentences!


Semicolons and transition words
semicolons and transition words. necessary

Use a semicolon with a transition word to connect two closely related sentences.

Ex: The baker burnt the loaves of bread this morning; therefore, he must start over from scratch.

A transition can do many things, such as add additional information, change direction, show contrast, etc.

When using a semicolon and a transition, you must use a comma after the transition.


Other transition words

Consequently necessary

On the other hand

Furthermore

Moreover

Thus

Still

In addition

As a result

Other transition words

Ex: Joel went to school without his homework; consequently, he had to stay late to make up the assignment.

Ex: Miranda left the beauty shop feeling like a queen; furthermore, her friends raved all night about her new style.

Ex: The Springfield Cardinals lost their game against the Tulsa Drillers; as a result, their 6-week losing streak continues.


Fix the following sentences by adding a semicolon a transition word and a comma
Fix the following sentences by adding a semicolon, a transition word, and a comma.

Jackie’s brother wants to see the new Pixar animation movie she will take him to see it tomorrow.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced and sang together in 10 films they won the hearts of millions of Americans during the early 20th century.

“Soda” and “pop” are used interchangeably to describe sweetened, carbonated beverages the terms are generally regional in their usage.

Everyday, Sam rides home on the city bus he enjoys the ride because he gets to “people-watch.”

Jackie’s brother wants to see the new Pixar animation movie; therefore, she will take him to see it tomorrow.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced and sang together in 10 films; thus, they won the hearts of millions of Americans during the early 20th century.

“Soda” and “pop” are used interchangeably to describe sweetened, carbonated beverages; however, the terms are generally regional in their usage.

Everyday, Sam rides home on the city bus; as a result, he enjoys the ride because he gets to “people-watch.”


Okay, I understand how to fix short, choppy sentences, but tell me again why they’re bad.

Short, choppy sentences hurt the flow of your writing.

It’s better to combine phrases and thoughts into longer, cohesive, correctly punctuated sentences.

This way your reader won’t feel bogged down or disinterested in disconnected thoughts and ideas.


Rule #3 tell me again why they’re bad.

Sometimes when we create lists of items (like a grocery list), we also have extra detail we need to give about the items.

We don’t want to confuse the reader by using too many commas. So, we can use semicolons to separate each item.


Items in a list
Items in a list tell me again why they’re bad.

Hey kid, your sentence is crowded with too many commas. Use semicolons to separate the items in your list

Hey ma, give me a PBJ with grape jelly, purple and jiggly, no crusts, soft middles only, and none of that wheat bread stuff, all course and grainy!

Oh yeah! Respect your ma, too!


Use semicolons to separate lists of items also containing commas
Use semicolons to separate lists of items also containing commas.

Hey ma, give me a PBJ with grape jelly, purple and jiggly,no crusts, soft middles only, and none of that wheat bread stuff, all course and grainy!

1st item uses a comma

Well Mr. Know-it-All, how should I fix this? And be quick. I gotta meet my gang!

Who’s your gang, the jungle-gym kids? And, the name’s Punky!

2nd item uses a comma

3rd item uses a comma


You can fix this sentence by separating each item with a semicolon!

Also, the name of my gang is the “Green T’s” ‘cause we only wear green t-shirts!

Aw shucks, that wasn’t so hard!

Hey ma, give me a PBJ with grape jelly, purple and jigglyno crusts, soft middles only and none of that wheat bread stuff, all course and grainy!

;

;


More Examples semicolon!

The hot-air balloon soared above the trees, touching the leaves as it passed; floated below the clouds, catching the mist that dropped; and swept past mountains, knocking snow off their tops.

The duck on the pushcart sped down the sidewalk, squawking at on-lookers; wheeled into the open streets, honking its nose at on-coming cars; and splashed into the cool pond, catching air as it raced down the boat ramp.


Fix the following sentences by adding semicolons to separate the items in the list.

The semi-annual millionaire’s skydiving exhibition will be held in several locations across the U.S., including Greenville, South Carolina, Joplin, Missouri, and Normal, Illinois.

The semi-annual millionaire’s skydiving exhibition will be held in several locations across the U.S., including Greenville, South Carolina; Joplin, Missouri; and Normal, Illinois.

Martin walked through the pumpkin patch searching for the perfect pumpkin. His ideal pumpkin would be very large, as big as his arms could hold; a gorgeous color, bright orange with no blemishes; and the right shape, perfectly round with no dents.

Martin walked through the pumpkin patch searching for the perfect pumpkin. His ideal pumpkin would be very large, as big as his arms could hold, a gorgeous color, bright orange with no blemishes, and the right shape, perfectly round with no dents.


Additional Rule the items in the list.

You may want to use a semicolon with long sentences that contain other commas and a coordinating conjunction.

It is I, Punky, the protector of punctuation.

Settle down little guy; I’ll explain it to you!

Halt! Who brings me this rule?

Tell me what this means, or I’ll have your head!

Off with his head!


Comma because the dependent clause is at the beginning of the sentence.

Remember how you must use a comma to combine a dependent with an independent clause if the dependent clause is at the beginning of the sentence?

We talked about independent and dependent clauses, right?

Dependent Clause

Even though Paul loves to swim, the water was simply to cold today.

Independent Clause

Well, sometimes we like to combine this sentence with another complete sentence by using a coordinating conjunction.


Even though Paul likes to swim, the water was simply too cold today, so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.

“So” is a coordinating conjunction

Let’s use a semicolon before “so.” This will make the sentence less confusing.

This sentence may be too confusing with this many commas!


Even though Paul likes to swim, the water was simply too cold today so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.

;

Unlike the rule with semicolons and transition words, don’t use a comma after a coordinating conjunction!

There are 7 coordinating conjunctions:

And For

But Yet

Or So

Nor


More Examples: cold today so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.

While I am at the store, please vacuum the living room;and then I want you to clean the bathroom.

Since I became president of the cooking club, we have created 6 new recipes; yet we still don’t know which one to enter in the annual amateur chef contest.

Unless we join some extracurricular organizations, neither of us will be receiving any awards; nor will we be allowed to attend the banquet.

Before next season, the team will need to raise funds for new uniforms;or they may have to play in mismatched jerseys.


Fix the following sentences by using a semicolon. cold today so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.

Whenever Don’s grandmother buys him new clothes, she often buys them two sizes too big, so he is unable to wear them before they go out of style!

Whenever Don’s grandmother buys him new clothes, she often buys them two sizes too big; so he is unable to wear them before they go out of style!

Since the theme of Molly’s birthday party is pinwheels, everyone will be making their very own pinwheel to take home, and the birthday cake will be shaped like a pinwheel.

Since the theme of Molly’s birthday party is pinwheels, everyone will be making their very own pinwheel to take home; and the birthday cake will be shaped like a pinwheel.


Fix the following sentences by using a semicolon. cold today so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.

Although Jimmy was enjoying the ice-cream cone, it melted all over his new t-shirt, but his mother wasn’t upset because the look on Jimmy’s face was nothing but delight.

Although Jimmy was enjoying the ice-cream cone, it melted all over his new t-shirt; but his mother wasn’t upset because the look on Jimmy’s face was nothing but delight.

Since becoming independently wealthy, Lucy stays in the sun all afternoon reading books, for she enjoys not having to work a full-time job.

Since becoming independently wealthy, Lucy stays in the sun all afternoon reading books; for she enjoys not having to work a full-time job.


Thanks cold today so he will visit the neighborhood pool tomorrow.Punky, I’m not afraid anymore!

  • Remember, semicolons can:

  • add sentence variety.

  • correct run-on sentences.

  • rid your writing of short, choppy sentences.

  • eliminate confusion in lists of details.

Following the simple rules we discussed for semicolon usage will help improve your writing!


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