Hello everyone and welcome back to another #theorythursday. Last week I discussed what the term ‘arc’ means so check that out of you haven’t already. Today I am talking about punctuation again so let’s dive in.
What is a semicolon?
A semicolon is a punctuation mark, it looks like this ;.
A semicolon is used when a writer wants to link two separate ideas or ‘clauses’ in a sentence that are different but closely related.
A clause is a group of words that have a subject and a verb. The subject and the verb will have a relationship.
A subject is a thing, and a verb is a doing action. So if I say something like “Mam was polishing the silverware.”, this is an example of a clause, and in this clause, the silverware is the subject and the verb is polishing.
A semicolon is used when a writer wants to link two clauses that are closely connected. An author could write two different sentences but by choosing not to and using a semicolon, it gives the two sentences equal importance.
An example of this can be seen in a sentence such as “I have work tomorrow; I can’t go out tonight.”
Here are a few more examples of a semicolon being used:
“John loves school; Sarah hates it.”
“Sarah hid under her bed until the storm passed; she’s always been afraid of thunder.”
I could write “Sarah hid under her bed until the storm passed. She’s always been afraid of thunder.”
In this clause, the subject is the storm and the action of hiding is the verb.
I could use a full stop instead of a semicolon, making them two separate sentences, but using the semicolon connects the two ideas and it also removes the pause one would take when reading that sentence aloud.
When using a semicolon, it is important to remember that when a writer is linking clauses with the use of a semicolon, the independent clause must come before the dependant clause.
An independent clause is a complete sentence that can stand alone, a dependent clause cannot stand alone because it is not a complete sentence that expresses a complete thought.
If one looks at a sentence such as “I cannot run in the race because I sprained my ankle.”
The subject is the race, to run is the verb, and the second half of that sentence “because I sprained my ankle” is the dependant clause.
You can’t say “because I sprained my ankle.”, without saying anything else because that is not a complete sentence so therefore it does not make sense.
“I cannot run in the race.”, is a complete sentence that makes sense by itself, making it the independent clause.
I could say “I cannot run in the race.” “I sprained my ankle.”
This works because these are two complete sentences, but I could also connect these ideas with a semicolon by writing “Sarah couldn’t run in the race; she sprained her ankle.”
This works because the dependent clause is following the independent clause, and this would not work the other way around.
Why is it important to know how to use a semicolon?
Understanding punctuation will always be useful. The semicolon is used very often and some people see it without knowing why it is there, and some people use a semicolon without understanding what it is or what it does, and if you don’t know how to use it then you could use it incorrectly. If you are studying English in school or college and you have essays to write then having a broad understanding of punctuation will be really helpful, but even if you are not a student, I still think it is nice to have an understanding of punctuation because it will simply enhance your reading experience.
This has been Theory Thursday. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy Christmas Eve Eve.