Skip to content

How to Use a Semicolon

January 27, 2010

Whether you love them or hate them (Vonnegut said: “[Semicolons] are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”), you can’t deny that semicolons trip up lots of writers. Luckily, the good folks at The Oatmeal have devised a cleverly perfect tutorial on semicolon use:

Click the link above to visit the full comic and check out their other insightful nuggets of joy: the evil of printers, ten words you need to stop misspelling, coffee facts, how to use an apostrophe, and more. If you happen to be a grammar teacher or a fan of grammarians in general, posters of The Oatmeal’s savvy tutorials can be purchased from the site at a not unreasonable rate. Enjoy!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2010 3:06 pm

    Love it. I got a student paper once that was three pages long and had fourteen, count them, fourteen semicolons.

  2. January 27, 2010 4:52 pm

    Were all fourteen of them at least properly used? I couldn’t find the proper quote anywhere, but I remember reading that Cormac McCarthy stating that any given author is allotted only three semicolons in his or her career. I feel as if your student broke a few rules there–if not McCarthy’s heart.

  3. January 27, 2010 4:57 pm

    Technically, they were “correct.” But, boy, were they overdone. I think we’re dealing with style here. I teach my students how to do them, but warn that they should be rare. I tell them it should feel like it’s breaking their heart to separate the two clauses into separate sentences–only then should they use one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: