3 Examples of How Semicolons Strengthen a Sentence
Semicolons help clarify construction of sentences. Using the punctuation mark, employed as either a comma on steroids or a strategically flexible period, is usually just one of two or more possible solutions, but though it has a stuffy reputation and many writers are confused about its applications, it often is the best choice.
1. This issue is not cut and dried, it’s actually fairly complicated.
This sentence demonstrates the simplest and perhaps most common error related to the role of the semicolon: the failure to use it when when needed in the weak-period function. This pair of independent clauses must be separated by a semicolon: “This issue is not cut and dried; it’s actually fairly complicated.”
Replacing the comma with a dash or beginning a new sentence with it’s are alternative strategies, though the statement does not include a sharp break in thought (which a dash is intended to signal) and does not constitute two distinct ideas meriting separate sentences, so the semicolon is the most suitable solution.
2. For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them, over easy, bacon, locally raised, of course, toast, and coffee, which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk.
This sentence requires semicolons to clearly organize a rambling list of words and phrases that constitute a menu: “For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them, over easy; bacon, locally raised, of course; toast; and coffee, which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk.”
However, the preparation details can also be presented enclosed in parentheses, which renders semicolons unnecessary: “For breakfast, he had eggs the way he liked them (over easy), bacon (locally raised, of course), toast, and coffee (which he always stirred exactly 10 times to blend in the milk).” For consistency and to enhance sentence balance and rhythm, better yet, a corresponding detail about the toast should be inserted.
3. The act offers protection from lawsuits arising from monitoring information systems, including employee email, cyberthreat-related disclosures, and sharing of that information with other companies.
This sentence requires semicolons because even though “including employee email” seems obviously related to the preceding phrase, the sentence can also be read as if employee email, cyberthreats-related disclosures, and sharing of that information with other companies are being offered as examples of information systems. Use the stronger punctuation mark in such sentences so that the sentence organization is unambiguous: “The act offers protection from lawsuits arising from monitoring information systems, including employee email; cyberthreat-related disclosures; and sharing of that information with other companies.”
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