How to use a semicolon - Emma Bryce

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It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity crisis.

It looks like a comma crossed with a period.

Maybe that's why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti.

We're confused about how to use them properly.

In fact, it's the semicolon's half-half status that makes it useful.

It's stronger than a comma, and less final than a period.

It fills the spaces in between, and for that reason,

it has some specific and important tasks.

For one, it can clarify ideas in a sentence

that's already festooned with commas.

"Semicolons: At first, they may seem frightening,

then, they become enlightening,

finally, you'll find yourself falling for these delightful punctuation marks."

Even though the commas separate different parts of the sentence,

it's easy to lose track of what belongs where.

But then the semicolon edges in to the rescue.

In list-like sentences, it can exert more force than commas do,

cutting sentences into compartments and grouping items that belong together.

The semicolon breaks things up, but it also builds connections.

Another of its tasks is to link together independent clauses.

These are sentences that can stand on their own,

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