A Filofacts on … semi-colons

A FILOFACTS ON … SEMICOLONS

A set of letters in The Guardian, 5.4.2008, explained the functions of the semi-colon pretty well …

The semicolon does not deserve such agonised and pretentious debate (G2, April 4): it is an entirely practical tool. You are writing a sentence of two parts, which would normally be separated by a comma; but one or both of those halves already needs a comma inside it. In that case, you separate the larger parts by a semi-colon. It is a comma that has been promoted, for the sake of clarity, to distinguish it from its subordinate commas. You would not use it to replace the colon in the first sentence of this letter.
Richard Andrews
Leeds

John Henley says that the semicolon “can serve to divide two phrases that are in themselves independent”. An example of this would be “Henley doesn’t know his English grammar; or word terminology” which, though true, is a nonsensical usage. He meant clauses, which have verbs, not phrases, which don’t. And I do semicolons in my writing, but only when necessary.
Copland Smith
Manchester

I use semi-colons all the time; well, nearly all the time.
Christopher Macy
Lincoln

I submit the following as an example of when the use is unavoidable: “I’m reaching breaking point; he snapped.”

This also might be submitted as the Hemingway Award entrant for a story in six words.
WE Vukmirovic
Wolverhampton

**

Advertisements
This entry was posted in the filofacts and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Comment welcome, if you can - site still unfinished.

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s