The Semi-colon ; The Center for Academic Excellence presents...
For the most part, the semi-colon is a punctuation mark which students would do well to avoid. The temptation is to misuse it, as if it were either a comma or a colon. Although it has physical resemblances to both of the other punctuation marks, it does not really behave like either. If a colon behaves like anything, it behaves like a period. Once in a very great while it will be used as a sort of intensified commabut more of that later.
The first thing that I should like to stress about the semi-colon is that when it is used, it behaves like a fulcrum, i.e., it balances two complete thoughts. In other words, it stands as a sort of pivot between two sentences. If the elements it balances are not both sentences, the semi-colon has been misused. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if the semi-colon cannot be replaced by a period, then a mistake has been made. In general, there is no need for a semi-colon, and the language would (and does) function quite nicely without one. Although I would not recommend using semi-colons, if you do feel an overwhelming compulsion to use them to link sentences, then understand that the content of both sentences should be closely related. (Again, think of the image of a fulcrum, balancing two equal elements.) Last summer I visited Paris; it is probably the most beautiful city in the world.
A sentence balances Content matter it was the worst week of my life.we are so very happy.Last week we were married ; The whole notion of the semi-colon is one of balance or symmetry. A sentence Content matter Last week my brother died
There is one other circumstance in which the semi-colon is used to good effect, although the occurrence is infrequent. In a sentence where the number of commas would otherwise cause undue confusion, semi-colons may act as a sort of intensive comma. The following sentence is admittedly difficult to understand, despite its being worded clearly enough: There were a number of guests at the reception, among them my mother, who flew all the way in from Zimbabwe, my aunt, who came all the way from South Africa, my uncle, who is visiting from Switzerland, and my best friend, Brian, from California. The sentence is far more readily understood when the commas separating the elements in the list are represented, instead, as semi-colons: There were a number of guests at the reception, among them my mother, who flew all the way in from Zimbabwe ; my aunt, who came all the way from South Africa ; my uncle, who is visiting from Switzerland ; and my best friend, Brian, from California.
That is virtually all you will ever need to know about the semi-colon. In my opinion, it is a punctuation mark which is passing out of existence. For the most part, the language functions perfectly well without it and it can, with no perceptible sacrifice to style, be replaced by a period. My general advice to would-be users of the semi- colon is as follows: When confronted by the temptation to use the semi-colon, RESIST IT.
The End PowerPoint Presentation by Mark A. Spalding, BA, MEd, MA (2008).