Punctuation Pie: The Semi Colon (;)

If punctuation marks were footballers then the semi colon is Lionel Messi. For me, students that know how to use semi colons tend to be those students who write better than the rest. What does this mean? It means that even if your writing is crap, there’s always a chance you can fool me into thinking it isn’t. How? By using a semi colon. So listen up.

As with the colon, there are a number of ways the semi colon can be used:

  • In complicated lists
  • Joining closely related sentences
  • Used in place of a connective

Here’s how it works.

In Complicated Lists

Semi colons can be used to separate things in complicated lists. Firstly, let me show you a list:

Contenders for the worst footballing haircut of the year award are Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United, Bacary Sagna, Arsenal, Marouane Chamakh, Crystal Palace and Gervinho, Roma.

Bit of a mess don’t you agree? If you knew nothing about football then you wouldn’t know what names were the names of players and what names were the names of clubs. Semi colons can be used to smarten things up:

Contenders for the worst footballing haircut of the year award are Marouane Fellaini, Manchester United; Bacary Sagna, Arsenal; Marouane Chamakh, Crystal Palace and Gervinho, Roma.

Joining closely related sentences

This is the easiest and most effective way to use semi colons I think.

Here we have two sentences that make perfect sense on their own:

Vincent Tan is foolish. He gave the ‘Bluebirds’ a red kit.

This example is fine. However, if we have two sentences (as in the example) that make perfect sense on their own which are closely related, then we can join them with a semi colon like so:

Vincent Tan is foolish; he gave the ‘Bluebirds’ a red kit.

Here’s another example:

Jose Mourinho is infuriating. He whines constantly.

Jose Mourinho is infuriating; he whines constantly.

See how the version with the semi-colon just looks…posher? Note that unless the word that follows the semi colon is a name of a place or person then you get rid of the capital letter.

Used in place of a connective

Finally, we can also use semi colons in place of connective words such as ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘so’, ‘as’ etc.

For example:

Jose Mourinho is infuriating because he whines constantly.

Jose Mourinho is infuriating; he whines constantly.

Right, that’s me done on semi colons.

Hope it helps.

Reference: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/exercises/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_05.htm

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Punctuation Pie: The Colon

The Colon ( : )

The colon is a very popular piece of punctuation but often used incorrectly. A bit like Wayne Rooney I guess. Colons can be used in 3 different ways:

  • To introduce an idea
  • To introduce a list
  • To introduce quoted material

How about an explanation for each?

Colons to Introduce an Idea

Colons can be used to introduce an idea or thought.

Example 1: There’s only one thing you need to know about Arsene Wenger: He’s having a nightmare.

Example 2: Spurs are left with only one option: Keep winning games.

 

You must be aware that the clause (the phrase) before the colon must make sense on its own. If it doesn’t then you can’t use a colon.

People spend far more time than they should about whether to use a capital letter after a colon. I don’t think you know all the ins and outs; just ensure you stick to one rule consistently. I like to use capital letters after all my colons.

Colons to Introduce a List

The other main use of a colon is to introduce a list. Like before, the clause before the colon must make sense on its own.

Example 1:Some truly delightful human beings work at Chelsea Football Club: John Terry, Ashley Cole and Jose Mourinho.

 

See how ‘Some truly delightful human beings work at Chelsea Football Club’ makes sense on its own?

 

Example 2: Chelsea Football Club employ John Terry, Ashley Cole and Jose Mourinho.

 

A colon doesn’t work here because ‘Chelsea Football Club employ’ doesn’t make sense on its own.

 

Colons to Introduce Quoted Material

‘Quoted Material’ just means stuff that people say. Like when Joey Barton says, ‘Somewhere in those high echelons of NUFC, they have decided, I am persona non grata.’ (If you don’t know what that means then don’t worry; Joey probably doesn’t either.)

Lets look at an example:

Example 1: My favourite Jose Mourinho quotation is: “Omelettes, eggs. No eggs, no omelettes. And it depends on the quality of the eggs in the supermarket.”

Make sure that if you are using a colon to introduce speech, you begin the speech with a capital letter always.

 

Enjoy using Colons.