As a semicolon enthusiast, people frequently come to me with their Semicolon Snags, asking me where and when they can use a semicolon and asking if it’s really that thing between a comma and a period.
Let me get this out of the way: A semicolon is not a comma, and nor is it a period! It has qualities of both, and it also has unique qualities that no other piece of punctuation possesses. It is truly a glorious type of punctuation and should be revered among any who enjoy the English language.
Now, the semicolon can act as a type of comma under certain circumstances. For example, it can be a kind of “super comma” when listing things to distinguish between when you’re listing a new thing and when you’re just describing a list. Here’s an example:
I went to the store and got apples, which were the reddest I’d ever seen; oranges, which were already beginning to rot; bananas, which were not yet ripe; and Tide pods, for my DISHWASHER.
As you can see from this example, I used a comma when describing the object, but then used a semicolon to distinguish between each object so that the reader could not get confused. In other words, the semicolons served as a type of barrier between each object to show that I was moving on to a new description. It’s possible to write the sentence without semicolons, but it is not advisable at all, and it would probably get your reader extremely confused.
The next (and most common) use for a semicolon is as a grammatically correct comma splice.
Now, if you don’t know what a comma splice is, it’s where a writer uses a comma instead of a period because the second sentence they’ve written relates to the first, so they think they can get away with this grammatical atrocity (!!!). Here’s an example:
She felt her knees buckle, the next moment, she was tumbling to the floor.
As you can see, She felt her knees buckle and The next moment, she was tumbling to the floor are two completely separate sentences! It is 110% grammatically incorrect (and troubling to my poor soul) to combine the two in such a horrific fashion. Even though the sentences are directly related to each other, combining them with a comma and nothing else is still grammatically…