Semicolon Use Simplified

Semicolon Use Simplified

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. I have always liked the semicolon, the cute ocular half of a winky smiley face. Despite the great confusion it seems to cause many of its would-be users, it is actually a very straightforward punctuation mark. That means that we can do the same thing with semicolons that we did with apostrophes in Apostrophe Use Simplified, which is to identify two easy-to-understand rules that will properly handle nearly every use of a semicolon you will encounter in your writing both professionally and personally. So let’s begin… Semicolon Usage #1: Separating items in a list that already contains commas. Recently I was asked to write an article on the proper uses of a comma, a minefield of a topic given both its breadth and the many exceptions to its rules. That being said, nearly everyone understands what is perhaps the comma’s most common use, separating items in a list. (Okay, let’s just address that pesky final comma before the “and” right now. Both “apples, pears and bananas” and “apples, pears, and bananas” are perfectly correct. The latter example uses what is called an Oxford comma, and while I prefer to use it myself, all you need to do is be consistent about either using it or not, and you will be just fine.) So if a comma separates items in a list, why would you need to use a semicolon for the same function? The following example will provide a clear answer: This year we will travel to Paris, Texas, Athens, Georgia, and Naples, Florida. Confusing, right? Will this itinerary find us traveling...