Lesson Plan - Get It!
Have you ever texted your friends a winky face like the one pictured above? If you have, then you have used a semicolon! Can you think of any other time, besides making winking faces, you used a semicolon? Does it even have a purpose other than making the wink?
Although semicolons have been around long before the wink — and they do serve a grammatical purpose — they are not often used.
Many people mistakenly use commas in their place, creating what is known as a "comma splice." Using semicolons in your writing shows a level of sophistication and helps you connect ideas more efficiently.
There are three different ways semicolons are used in the English language:
- Unlike the comma, that can connect a complete sentence or phrase, a semicolon connects two complete sentences together. Look at the example below:
Sit down. I will bring the food over.
Written with two periods, those two sentences sound like commands and appear serious.
Sit down; I will bring the food over.
With the use of the semicolon, the commands seem to be softened and now imply generosity.
Therefore, we can say the semicolon connects two independent clauses that stem from the same thought or are closely related to one another.
- A semicolon connects two sentences joined by adverbs or transitional words.
This is my favorite show to watch; however, I will have to leave half way though the show to get to work on time.
Tina was so worried about hanging the decorations, she forgot about the pie in the oven; as a result, the pie was burnt to a crisp.
A semicolon can, and does, take the place of the conjunctions "but" and "and" when joining two independent clauses.
- A semicolon is used when listing items when a comma has already been used.
I have lived in Woodburn, Indiana; Mt. Prospect, Illinois; Houston, Texas; and Eugene, Oregon.
The following video, How to use a Semicolon, will give you more detail about the three ways semicolons are used:
Next, watch Flash Grammar Lesson: Semicolon (below) to get a different perspective on using semicolons. As you watch the video, take note of what is included in an independent clause. After the video, share with your parent or teacher what you learned. Then try writing a few sentences that follow each of the three rules for semicolon use. Check with your parent or teacher to see how well you did; then move on to the next section!