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!
Some people type in a conventional way—others hunt and peck.
The dog is brown and white—he 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.