I’d first like to credit this entire article to all of those who improperly use semicolons as a cheap ploy to pad their work (blog entries, research papers, etc) and who love to use GRE vocabulary words that they do not understand. A blog entry regarding this hotsy totsy topic is currently in the works.
The main source of this article can be found on theoatmeal.com.
So what’s the point of a semicolon? Well according to The Oatmeal and every other grammar source known to man, a semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses. So basically it is taking two ideas that could stand alone like, “My cat has a serious face. She finds little humor in my jokes.” With a semicolon, the sentence would look like this: “My cat has a serious face; she finds little humor in my jokes.” Never use a semicolon if an and, but, or, nor, for, so, or yet can be used.
When is a semicolon appropriate to use? According to The Oatmeal, use a semicolon when forming a bond between two statements, typically when they are related to or contrast with one another. A semicolon can also be used as a “super-comma”, which basically means it can be used when making a list of items that are separated with a comma. For example, “My favorite places to shop include Banana Republic, a place where I can always find cute tops; Forever 21, a store that always adds a touch of funk to my wardrobe; and New York and Company, a great place to grab dress clothes for work.”
Finally, use a semicolon to connect sentences that contain internal punctuation, such as commas. For example, “When Bubby and Bobby are mad at each other, they’ll often resort to slapping; cats are all about the slap fights.” According to The Oatmeal, if a period would have been used in this sentence, the connection between the two clauses would have been lost.
So let’s review. When a strong desire to link two independent clauses arises, just add a semicolon. Just make sure the two ideas can stand alone. If making lists that contain commas is your thing, add semicolons. Finally, if your sentence contains two clauses that deserve a strong connection, but contain internal punctuation, add a semicolon! Just make sure to follow these rules, and I can assure that your writings will not be mocked. Maybe.