Semicolons Exercise (454)

Determine whether semicolons are required in these sentences.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: I had had enough of her behavior; and I decided I would stop accepting her invitations.
Correct : I had had enough of her behavior, and I decided I would stop accepting her invitations.

A semicolon is redundant to a conjunction separating two independent clauses, so a simple comma suffices in this sentence. (Alternatively, the semicolon can be retained if "and" is deleted.)

2.
Original: The play’s characters include Uncle Wadleigh, a curmudgeonly miser, Mr. Soames, an avaricious banker, and Miss Bright, an impulsive ingénue.
Correct : The play’s characters include Uncle Wadleigh, a curmudgeonly miser, Mr. Soames, an avaricious banker, and Miss Bright, an impulsive ingénue.

This sentence is correct as is because the character names and descriptions are few and simple and no confusion will arise. If the sentence were more complex, with more names and longer descriptions, it would be easier to read if semicolons preceded each character name after the first one.

3.
Original: Bases remained on alert, however it was believed that any attack would likely focus on an American base in the Philippines.
Correct : Bases remained on alert; however, it was believed that any attack would likely focus on an American base in the Philippines.

When "however" is preceded and followed by commas, the erroneous implication is that the word is an interjection, and that the punctuation marks are of equal value and identical purpose. The word begins a new train of thought, however -- one could begin a new sentence at that point -- so a semicolon is required between the clauses.

4.
Original: His first vintage car was a 1957 Chevy, he followed that up with a 1946 Studebaker, but his favorite vehicle was a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain station wagon.
Correct : His first vintage car was a 1957 Chevy, he followed that up with a 1946 Studebaker, but his favorite vehicle was a 1951 Pontiac Chieftain station wagon.

A semicolon could take the place of the comma after "Chevy," but that revision would seem to dissociate the first car from the others. Alternatively, the comma after "Studebaker" could be replaced by a semicolon if "and" is added to the sentence, as shown here, but only if "but" were omitted as well, and the change is unnecessary.

5.
Original: The policy has been changed because the flextime option has been widely abused; managers have had difficulty managing the diverse schedules of their subordinates; and employees whose responsibilities require them to work regular hours resent colleagues who have flexible schedules.
Correct : The policy has been changed because the flextime option has been widely abused, managers have had difficulty managing the diverse schedules of their subordinates, and employees whose responsibilities require them to work regular hours resent colleagues who have flexible schedules.

The length of the items in a list is irrelevant when deciding whether to organize the sentence with commas alone or with semicolons. Because no internal punctuation exists within each list item, semicolons are unnecessary in this sentence.

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