Dun dun dun… The dreaded semicolon.
Semicolons can be tricky to use sometimes. They are used infrequently and look weird, which can make you hesitant to even try using them.
What makes semicolons so scary?
Truthfully, it’s probably because at some point, your teacher told you not to use them (because you were a developing writer), you lost points for using them, or your professor added one in one of your papers for some reason that you didn’t understand at all.
However, once you know how to properly use semicolons, the scariness goes away.
A semicolon’s purpose is to join together two separate but closely related sentences. That’s it. Think of the actual semicolon and how it is built from a period and a comma. One way you can remember its proper use is by recognizing that the period portion shows that there are two independent clauses, and the comma shows how closely related the two sentences are.
One important note to make with semicolons is that they always join two independent clauses, not an independent clause and a dependent clause. There must be a complete sentence on both sides of the semicolon.
One more use for semicolons is when you have a decent sized list that contains commas within some items. You can then use semicolons like super-commas. Here’s an example:
For the picnic I packed delicious sandwiches, the kind with the bacon; disgusting sandwiches, the kind with alfalfa sprouts; potato chips, obviously cheesy ones; and a quilt, made from the hair of a magical alpaca in the Blue Ridge mountains.
Those are the basic uses of semicolons. For more information, check out The Oatmeal.