Weekly Journal

Grammar Tip: The semicolon acts the superhero against comma splices

13th July 2017

Batman saves the city of Gotham, Harry Potter defeats Voldemort, shielding the wizarding world from further catastrophe, Sidney Crosby restored Canadian spirits when he scored the overtime goal in the gold medal game of the 2010 OIympics. The point is, the world is full of heroes, both expected and unexpected. Believing in superheroes seems like a childish notion, but as writers, we still believe in them, we just don’t know it. A writer’s hero hails from the grammatical realm, where lyrically written prose dominates the hierarchy and comma-spliced sentences littered with un-proofread typos are charged with sweeping the dust off the perfect prose’s castle floor. (Off in the distance, the incorrect uses of “your” and “you’re” miserably watch the action from behind bars.)

In this world, there are still heroes that come in the form of writing tools, all of which help to guide awkward sentences on the path to glittering success. With this end goal in mind, it is vital to understand how to distinguish the comma splice from the semicolon, which we’ve crowned as grammar’s unsung hero. Why? Because the semicolon has the unprecedented power to decimate the dreaded run-on sentence.

Goodbye comma splice!

Destroy your comma splices with the semicolon

The semicolon, like any other hero, has an enemy, and this antihero is labelled as the comma splice. This awful and commonly known action deteriorates the credibility of any paragraph, no matter how poetically the landscapes are described, or how factual the information involved is – a comma splice ruins everything. So, how do we get rid of this preposterous action? Well, first things first: we need to understand how the semicolon works!

Understanding the independent clause

As we know, comma splices attempt to connect two independent clauses together that could either be split apart with a semicolon, a period, or by simply using “so”, “but”, “and”, “yet”, and “or” (coordinating conjunction). An independent clause is like a giant wall, because it can stand on its own. It’s a complete sentence. A comma splice is comparable to an ant trying to split the massive wall in half with a sliver of grass. It is clearly not strong enough.

“The semicolon has the unprecedented power to decimate the dreaded run-on sentence.”

Examples of a comma splice

An example of a comma splice would be: “Gryffindor is playing Slytherin today, I hope Harry Potter catches the snitch first”. This sentence contains two separate thoughts. They are both too independent to be divided by a mere comma. So, how will the semicolon crown itself victor over the comma splice? Easy: “Gryffindor is playing Slytherin today; I hope Harry Potter catches the snitch first”.

Saving the sentence with the semicolon’s sidekicks

If the semicolon is finding its bed too comfortable and can’t be bothered to get out of it to save the sentence from the villainous comma splice, then the coordinating conjunctions or the always-solid period – otherwise known as Robin, Ron Weasley, or any other sidekick you can think of – could come in and eliminate all stress, and alter the sentence for the better. An example is: “Gryffindor is playing Slytherin today, so I hope Harry Potter catches the snitch first”. Or: “Gryffindor is playing Slytherin today. I hope Harry Potter catches the snitch first, because I HATE MALFOY”.

Thanks coordinating conjuction for helping out the semicolon! Best sidekick ever! 

Semicolons are in a constant battle with the comma splice, but at the end of the fight the semicolon should easily win, due to the fact that commas cannot simply connect two independent clauses on its own, because of its miniature size. The comma needs the additional dot of the semicolon, or the strength of the coordinating conjunctions to overpower the sentence and connect the independent clauses.

The comma splice ruins the flow of carefully crafted sentences, but if you simply press erase, and add in the semicolon instead, you have successfully diverted your sentence from grammatical death. We at The Content Castle hope this grammar tip will help you alter your sentence from awkward to extraordinaire! Feel free to contact us here if you’d like us to cover a specific grammatical rule in future blog posts.

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