Updated: Nov 20, 2020
Oh, the dreaded semi-colon. I have heard people complain about using it since I was in high school. One of my teachers told us to avoid it altogether because no one ever used it correctly, and my university professors often discouraged students from using it as well. I have to confess, though, that the semi-colon is my favourite punctuation mark.
I have a tattoo of a semi-colon on my wrist, although not because I'm such a grammar nerd (even though I am a grammar nerd). I got a semi-colon tattoo because of Project Semicolon, which is about mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Although this project is not grammar-focused, it is grammar-related.
Now, let's get into the fun grammar stuff.
How to Use a Semi-Colon
Semi-colons are mainly used to join two independent but related clauses. In other words, a semi-colon joins two full sentences that have something to do with each other.
e.g., I went to Scotland for my last semester of university; it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Both "I went to Scotland for my last semester of university" and "it was one of the best experiences of my life" are full sentences. You could put a period in place of the semi-colon and those sentences would still be grammatically correct; however, I put a semi-colon there because the ideas of the independent clauses are closely related.
The second main use of a semi-colon is to clearly separate elements in a list. If each element of a list also includes a comma, the list can be confusing for the reader. Separating those items with a semi-colon can clarify the list.
e.g., I have travelled to many places: Anaheim, California; Tokyo, Japan; Edinburgh, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; and Tallinn, Estonia.
Semi-colons are a fantastic way to vary sentence structure, and I encourage learning to use them. They're not as scary as you think, and if you use them effectively, you can improve the impact of a sentence.
So what does this have to do with Project Semicolon? The semi-colon is a symbol that reminds us how the story keeps going. We don't have to end the sentence our of lives with a period; we can put a semi-colon there instead and keep on writing.
On that note, happy writing!