Awhile ago, I wrote a short post on commas, confessing that it was a short post because I really didn't know much about them.
One of my writing friends, Anthony (who is not only an amazing writer but a judge, for God's sake) suggested I write a post about semicolons. Sure thing, I wrote him in an email.
And then I didn't write the post.
Because, guess what? I think I know even less about semicolons than I do about commas.
But then I decided I liked this short post thing I had going on and that I'd give it a shot. So here goes.
You use a semi-colon when linking two complete clauses. (Think of a complete clause as a sentence. I'm sure there's a more complex definition of it, but if so, I don't know it. And won't know it. So let's keep things simple.)
So, two complete clauses:
The room was elegant and dark. The woman who sat in it matched the decor.
Linked with a semicolon:
The room was elegant and dark; the woman who sat in it matched the decor.
As far as I'm concerned (and I'm willing to admit I could be wrong) you use a semicolon in circumstances when you want to link the complete clauses in some way. In the example above, it makes sense to link the two phrases, no?
But, honestly? Either style works for me. True confession: I tend to think of semicolons as a bit stuffy and pedantic. I rarely use them, to the point that the grammar check on my computer hates me because it corrects my commas with semicolons so often. Sometimes I put the semicolons in just to make it happy.
Because I have done a relatively lame incomplete job of discussing the semicolon, I present you with these resources to further enhance your understanding of this bit of puncutation.
How To Use a Semicolon (the most feared punctuation on earth). This post from The Oatmeal is funny, charming, and actually informative. I highly recommend it. The author also discusses the theory of the pause in grammar, which is how I do commas.
Semicolon. I find this Wikipedia page complicated and obtuse, but you might like it. I'm willing to admit that my dislike of the semicolon is coloring my opinion of it.
The Semicolon. I can't figure out what this site is, but it features a clear explanation of the punctuation in question.
What are your feelings about semicolons? Do you have feelings about semicolons? It's okay if you don't, but let's discuss anyway.