EDIT ME — Semi-colons Are Stupid

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Yes, Miss Mitchell, I just said that. For those of you who don’t know, Miss Mitchell was the English teacher from HELL. She kept busting me for kissing Ryan in the hallway and took out her frustrations on a poor little 8th grade girl who was madly in love with her new BF–as well as the English language.

Miss Mitchell hated me as a person but she loved my grasp of English. I “got” grammar, picked up spelling as if it was chocolate kisses, and I loved to write. By that age, I already had novels under my belt!

Ahem. Sorry for the walk down the bumpy country road of my life! Back to semi-colons.

What are they?

They look like this:


Stupid-looking, yes. Is it a period, a comma, a prehistoric fish fossil?

Its role is to connect 2 related and independent ideas without creating a new sentence. Examples:

Some people type in a conventional way; others hunt and peck.

The dog is brown and white; he is also old.

If you read each part of the sentence, you can see how they stand on their own (are independent). But you should never connect with only a comma. That’s called a comma splice and your editor will zap you for it! Especially if I’m your editor.

But in this day and age, the semi-colon can sometimes seem archaic. A lot of readers stumble over it. Do they stop reading? Is it a super-secret signal to read the sentence again?

Here’s where super em dash comes in!

emdashAn em dash can connect these independent thoughts and act as the pause Mr. Semi does.


Some people type in a conventional wayothers hunt and peck.

The dog is brown and whitehe is also old.

I try to limit use of semi-colons to 1-2 per manuscript. If you’re using more than that, it’s probably too many. And please try the em dash. He’s a modern guy.

Thanks for reading!



6 comments on “EDIT ME — Semi-colons Are Stupid

  1. Thanks for explaining the em dash. I use semi colons a lot, and realize there are too many in my ms, but didn’t know how to fix it. 🙂

  2. I’m actually rather fond of the semi-colon, myself, because it can be combined with a right parentheses in this manner: 😉 simulating a wink and grin. I’m quite sure my own English teachers would not be amused by the way the language has been abused on social media such as Twitter; they were a traditional bunch. 😉

  3. I guess you learn something new everyday; I did not realize smilies were available on this site.

  4. LOL–great post! I free lance as an editor and can’t believe how many people misuse the semi-colon, or fill their manuscript with comma splices. The em-dash is almost always a perfect solution. I’m guessing semi-colons slow most readers down – an em-dash points you immediately to the next thought, lickety-split.

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