Calliope Writing

Stop Being a Baby About Semicolons
September 8, 2015, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Being Awesome, Grammar, Semicolon | Tags: , , ,

Shout-out to Poet Rummager and FlyTrapMan, who were the inspiration for this (may I say humbly) awesome post.

Semicolon Post 1

Semicolons are a mystery to many, so they use them for one reason and one reason only: winking online.

Semicolon Post 2

To these dysgrammatophobic individuals, the semicolon is a strange comma-colon hybrid, and you know what they say about things that are different: run away from them. As quickly as possible.* So, instead of learning about the semicolon, they hate it. “Damn you, semicolon!” they scream, sobbing throughout the night.

Stop that crying. Katrina’s here to make all your semicolon nightmares go away.

Let’s put it in simple language, shall we? How in holy hell is the semicolon supposed to be used?

With Independent Clauses

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. A dependent clause is the opposite: a group of words that, if standing alone, wouldn’t form a complete sentence.

Where semicolons are concerned, independent clauses rock. Because otherwise, the poor semicolon would be doomed to being part of a winky-face forever.

The most common way you’ll see semicolons used (assuming you read books, articles, essays, etc.) is like this:

Independent Clause ; Independent Clause

But dependent clauses? Nope – you can’t put two dependent clauses together with a semicolon. You can’t even put a dependent clause and an independent clause together with a semicolon. Punctuation can only do so much.

But there’s a catch: the above formula only works if the two independent clauses are closely related.

A good example would be:

Semicolon Post 1st Ex

But the following are incorrect:

  • Your dad killed the werewolf; his tee time is two in the afternoon.
  • Your father murdered the werewolf neighbor; thinking about unicorns.

I’ll try to be cheerier for the next examples, but I make no promises.

In a List

This one has a big rule: only use semicolons to create a list if there’s other complex punctuation within that list. Most of the time, that complex punctuation will be the comma.

Introductory Phrase: Thing with Complex Punctuation; Thing; and Thing.

Here’s a good example:

Semicolon Post 2nd Ex

Questions? No? Good. Moving on.

With Conjunctive Adverbs/Transitional Phrases

Don’t let the jargon freak you out. It’s really pretty simple.

Independent Clause; Conjuctive Adverb or Transitional Phrase, Rest of sentence.

Conjunctive adverbs are words like “otherwise,” “however,” or “therefore.” So an example of using a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb is:

Semicolon Post 3rd Ex

Transitional phrases include “for example,” “in other words,” and “on the other hand.” Here’s an example using a semicolon and a transitional phrase:

Semicolon Post 4th Ex

Not so scary, right? (I’m referring to the semicolon, of course–not to the doll above.)

Coordinating Conjunctions

Most of the time, you won’t use semicolons with coordinating conjunctions such as “and,” “but,” or “for.”

However, you can use a semicolon rather than break the sentence into two if what’s before or after the coordinating conjunction includes complex punctuation.

No clue what I mean? Here’s an example:

Semicolon Post 5th Ex

Having a hard time keeping the conjunctive adverbs, transitional phrases, and coordinating conjunctions straight? Grammar Girl has us covered with a list of the most commonly used words/phrases of each type.

So it’s not all that terrible, right? Love the semicolon instead of fearing it. And use it. I would hate for the semicolon to go extinct (I love it almost as much as the oxford comma).

Want to see more examples of correct semicolon use, with pictures? Guaranteed to make you laugh? Then head over to one of my favorite places in cyberspace: The Oatmeal.

Project Semicolon

Project SemicolonI can’t talk about semicolons without mentioning Project Semicolon, which is pretty damned amazing. So please check it out.

Until next time.

Semicolon Post Joke

*So blatantly kidding here. But decided to include the asterisk in case my sarcasm isn’t as obvious as I think…

20 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You’re so BRILLIANT! Wowsy!! Yeah, that Oxford comma is a bitch to remember so thanks for that reminder. I love love love the examples you gave; so hip and trendy!! A million thanks darling💋 😘❤️

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Poet Rummager

Thank YOU!! I’m so glad you liked it. After all, wouldn’t have written it without you and FlyMan. 😉

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina Robinson

[…] Come close and let me whisper in your ear, because I don’t want to embarrass you with this rather personal question. Do you know when to use a semicolon? You’re right; it isn’t any of my business, but I’m just trying to be a friend, okay? Maybe you’d always wanted to learn but didn’t want to read something boring and unfunny. Let me ask you this then; would you like to look cool and smart, dispensing a semicolon, from someone who is incredibly hilarious, witty, and quite edgy? Why yes, I am talking about fellow blogger, Katrina from Calliope Writing! Click here and get ready to marvel, laugh and maybe even add a point or two to your IQ!!! […]


Pingback by Beckoning Moon | Poet Rummager

Nice post! My brain exploded inside of my cranium!

I’ll be honest — I don’t like semicolons because of the way it looks. There. I said it. The semicolon is unsymmetrical and it’s an eyesore! Haha — just kidding. Kind of.

Here’s a serious question: Why not just use a comma? I mean, I sort of understand why, but at the same time…I don’t necessarily see why the comma can’t be used instead of a semicolon.

One more serious question: How come the independent clauses have to be related? Why not join two unrelated independent clauses? Would there ever be a reason to do so?

Liked by 1 person

Comment by FlyTrapMan

I hope you have enough brain matter left to use the amazing semicolon!

As for your questions…why are grammar rules the way they are, period? The “why” of it all is sometimes vague. I’m sure I could BS some reason, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to look into it.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Once upon I time, I used the semicolon, but stopped, because I didn’t fully understand its proper usage. Your post granted me some encouragement and banished a little of my ignorance.

I appreciate your honesty! Grammar confuses the hell out of me, so I like asking somewhat moronic questions, to get a little revenge! Haha.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by FlyTrapMan

ha! Thanks a lot. You were hoping I’d give you some BS answer that you could make fun of, weren’t you!? 😉

Liked by 2 people

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Damn! You caught me!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by FlyTrapMan

[…] my draft bin…for many moons. I was going to delete this post—however—things have changed. Recently, I read an enlightening post, and learned a little something about semicolons. I dedicate this post to Calliope Writing: you […]


Pingback by My Old Friend | --FlyTrapMan--

I followed a link from Poet Rummager’s site to find out what you were going to say about semicolons. Very informative and entertaining, but I do have a question: where can I get one of those glitter-crapping unicorns?

Liked by 1 person

Comment by BunKaryudo

Thanks for checking it out! You know, I’ve been looking for a glitter-crapping unicorn since I was five years old. If you find one, let me know…and if I find one…I might let you know. 😉

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Sounds like a plan! 🙂

Liked by 1 person

Comment by BunKaryudo

Thank you! Do you have any posts about properly using commas, because I feel like I use them entirely too much, and everything I write is one huge run on sentence, sort of like this.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Jessica Chayenne

I don’t really have any “proper use of commas” posts…but here are a couple of good links to get you started before I jump in with my own unicorn-laden post: and

Liked by 2 people

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Topics that often seemed deadly dull when I was in school really come alive in your posts and those of Mignon Fogarty [AKA Grammar Girl, on].

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Mellow Curmudgeon

Thank you! I love Grammar Girl. She’s great.

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Katrina Robinson

Great blog entry, Katrina. I’ll make sure my daughter studies it in detail. Keep up the good work!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Sarah

Thanks, Sarah! I hope you’re doing well.


Comment by Katrina Robinson

You’re welcome, Katrina. I am well, helping my daughter with a story containing a word ”jumbotron.” Have a great day!

Liked by 1 person

Comment by Sarah

You do the same!


Comment by Katrina Robinson

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