The Dreaded Semicolon Is Totally Cool, part 2

We’re back with another look at semicolons. That’s right, the fun won’t stop! This time let’s examine how semicolons are the crucial ingredient you need to write an effective, complex list full of details and information.

Last time, we looked at the main way semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses or two parts of a sentence that could each be complete sentences.

  • Today is a great day for my sister; she won first place in the spelling contest.

Each side of the semicolon could be a complete sentence, but the writer wants to connect them and not use any conjunctions or other words/phrases. Now, let’s move onward.

Another way semicolons are completely necessary is in complex lists.

If each part of a list is normally separated by a comma, then what do you do if some parts of that list need commas within them? Just use a semicolon to separate the parts of a list.

  • Joe owns a few dogs, including a French poodle named Sandy that has the puffy tail, wears a pink collar, and is white except for black spots near her paws; a German Shepard trained by an ex-police officer that can follow many commands, practically smell trouble, and of course is an excellent guard for Joe’s home; and a cute mutt of a puppy with shaggy hair, a pug nose, and floppy paws that follows Sandy around all day as if she were his mother.

This long listing is one sentence, and you can see how each part—each dog and its description—requires commas; therefore, a semicolon is used to keep the parts of the listing (the dogs) more clearly separated. If you only used commas, this long sentence would be a mess of confusion. Right? In this situation, using semicolons is necessary and not a choice.

This rule is simple, it just looks confusing. Separate each part of the list with a semicolon and use commas wherever else you need them. That’s all.

Do you have to write long, complex lists like the one above? No, probably not. However, sometimes they provide an excellent way to present a lot of information and details about a series of related items or things. Besides, these lists aren’t that hard to make, and your teachers will be incredibly impressed seeing them leap off the page!

< The Dreaded Semicolon Is Totally Cool, part 1

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