OK, people. There are untold millions of literate, educated, intellectual adults who secretly (or not so secretly) fear the semi colon. Semi colons are easy. They are not half as scary as spiders, zombies, or the Republican War on Women.
If you are a creative writer, there is only one time you need a semi colon. If you write academic, technical, business, or other more formal prose, there are two times when you might use a semi colon. So let’s start with the creative writing.
1. Do you have a sentence that is too long? Or maybe you have two sentences that are closely related to each other. Stick a semi colon in there, baby! Just make sure that the words on either side of the semi colon can stand on their own if they have to. It’s that easy. Don’t be afraid. Or, it’s that easy; don’t be afraid.
2. More technical writers: Do you find yourself drowning in a sea of commas? Do your lists seem never to end? The semi colon will save you. Treat it as a “strong comma” when you have lists within your lists.
When I sit down to work I want to have my computer, which is essential; my cup of coffee, which I drink hot and black; my notebook so I can write down all my brilliant style decisions; and my dog, who sleeps on a pillow at my feet.
It’s that easy. You’re welcome.