JS Tip 169: From the Writing Workshops: A Short Detour into Semicolonland

We’ve been talking about commas, but last week we mentioned semicolons. They’re worth a short detour.

In all the known world, semicolons have two—and only two—uses:

Link separate—but related—ideas:  

We’ll arrive on Monday; the conference will start on Tuesday.

The pump failed; the room flooded.

We finished the audit; we found no discrepancies.

Notice how the ideas are related; notice how the ideas are complete thoughts.

We mentioned this last week: semicolons provide a direct, in-your-face, bam-bam link between ideas.

Separate items in a series that already contain commas

The company has plants in Long Beach, California; St. Helens, Oregon; and Tacoma, Washington.

We met with Thomas Corey, the CEO; Jeanne Welch, the CTO; and Ernest Clements, the security chief.

Three staffers researched the report: Jim Halpert, Sales; Toby Flenderson, HR; and Darryl Philbin, Warehouse.

The semicolons serve as super-commas. They separate items already separated by commas.   

In all the known world, only these two uses.

If you have questions, suggestions, or arguments, let us know. We love this stuff.

Hey. We apologize about the typo in last week’s tip. Our fault. Not enough attention to detail. Dang.