Someone once said that the colon is an obnoxious punctuation mark; it orders the reader to infer exactly this from what follows: what the colon precedes is the only possible explanation. The semi-colon, on the other hand, is more polite; it merely indicates that what follows relates to that which precedes. (See what I mean about writing more formally?)
The guidelines for semi-colon use are fairly simple. In a list, a semi-colon can be used instead of a comma, especially where the use of a comma might be confusing. In a sentence a semi-colon separates two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction. This means that where two complete but related sentences could each stand on its own, they can either be joined with a semi-colon or a conjunction (and, but, etc.). A comma needs a conjunction, but a semi-colon can stand on its own. What a semi-powerful piece of punctuation.
How do you feel about semi-colons? Do you avoid using them in your writing? Or are you semi-colon savvy?
Mark April 7th in your diary when author David Baboulene, expert on subtext, will stop by the Blood-Red Pencil on his book tour for The Story Book : A Writer's Guide to Story Development, Principles, Problem-solving and Marketing
Elsa Neal is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Visit her website to download her free mini report on the Ten Most Frustrating Grammar Rules and How to Remember Them. Read up more on Grammar and Punctuation or browse through her Resources for Writers.