The Usage of Semicolon is Confusing; Most People Are Afraid of It

Neil Neches of the New York City Transit's marketing and service information department gained fame when he inserted a semicolon in a public service placard:

It was nearly hidden on a New York City Transit public service placard exhorting subway riders not to leave their newspaper behind when they get off the train.

“Please put it in a trash can,” riders are reminded. After which Neil Neches, an erudite writer in the transit agency’s marketing and service information department, inserted a semicolon. The rest of the sentence reads, “that’s good news for everyone.”

Which brings the question: why aren't we using semicolons more often? (I blame conjunctions!)

Ironically, The New York Times article itself contained a punctuation error (see errata below). Oh, the irony!

Link - via Nag on the Lake | Oh, and here's a guide on how to use semicolons without committing a grammatical sin.

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments


It's "grammar," not "grammer." Gaudere's Law strikes!

(If you meant that using a semicolon in place of a comma is not appropriate to the guy who played Frasier Crane, then I retract this comment. Except to point out that Mr. Grammer's name is usually capitalized.)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Once you learn how to use them you will never look back; however, if you ever had a bastard grade your technical paper where you consistently misused semi-colons you may find yourself gun-shy in later years.

They can be used as super-commas when you want to be unambiguous about commas contained within the items being listed. This is the list; this, that and the other thing; he, she and the dog; homer, marge and the kids.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I'll just re-iterate the obvious; It took one Simon and Shuster's grammar volumes to help solve this mystery. Don't use a semi-colon like a comma dammit! You don't say, "John and Sue are on vacation. They brought their swimsuits; beachball; and their beach towels." It's not proper grammer. The correct way would be to say, "John and Sue are on vacation; they brought their swimsuits, beachball and their beach towels." They're supposed to be placed at the end of complete sentences; especially if you have more to say about the particular subject. Cool huh? Now run and tell all of your friends about it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I might use it. It really depends on the audience reading my stuff.

In some situations I feel like I'm showing off if I use the semicolon, so I like to throw in a few split infinitives or dangling participles to balance it out.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
@Jen-- PIN number, ATM machine and HIV virus are all redundant because N stands for number, etc.

And I am a staunch user of the semicolon; it's very useful when breaking up a sentence into two isolated thoughts. My problem is deciding whether to use a colon or a dash.

I love colon.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Commenting is closed.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Usage of Semicolon is Confusing; Most People Are Afraid of It"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More