I no longer care if I use semicolons wrong.

I’ve always been confused about semicolons;1 when to use them and, more importantly;2 when not to.

Considering I’ve just spent a lot of time caring about good typography on this blog;3 to the point of writing a script to outdent quotes;4 I thought I would take the time to learn.

  1. Half-full-stop. Joining two sentences

    Secondary to terminating statements in C-style languages, the purpose of a semicolon is to join sentences tighter than full stops:

    1. The two parts must be full sentences in their own right.
    2. There must be some gain or emphasis in meaning from the tighter connection.
    3. There mustn’t be any conjunctiony words. No buts. Our semicolon is the conjunction.
    4. They should be of equalish importance. (Otherwise a parenthetical5 would be more appropriate).
  2. Super-comma. Disambiguating list separators

    If you have a list whose items contain commas then you need something other than a comma to break it up.

    e.g. Wellington, New Zealand; London, England; and Krögis, Germany.

    I think this looks ugly;6 I will rewrite to avoid it.

Hi friends who studied english at university; am I telling the truth?

  1. Wrong! Use a colon; the second part isn’t a full sentence. 

  2. Wrong! Use a comma; conjunctions and incomplete sentences abound. 

  3. Wrong! Use parentheses for parentheticals 

  4. Wrong! Close parentheses or a full stop. 

  5. Or footnote 

  6. Right! (I’m as surprised as you are)