The semicolon; that misunderstood creature. I certainly misunderstood it at one point. I thought by inserting a semicolon anywhere in my writing it made me look 'clever' ... lol. I must admit, now that I know how to use one I can get carried away, linking clause upon clause together. I've had to go back in my writing and eliminate semicolons--too much of a good thing is not good at all!
So how do you properly use a semicolon? When I edit the manuscripts of other writers, sometimes I'll find something like this:
Margaret went to the store to pick up some milk; whole wheat bread and cheese on the shelves. (This is not an actual example of what I read, but I read something similar).
So why is the semicolon in the wrong place in the above sentence? It is because the semicolon's primary function is to separate two complete sentences (clauses) that can stand alone, but are somehow related to each other. For example:
Margaret got a phone call on Wednesday; it was a call that changed her life forever.
The two sentences above can stand on their own, but there is a clear linkage between them.
In addition, the semicolon may be used to list things. It can often be found when listing name, dates, locations and description. Example:
She travelled all over the world, to London, England; Toronto, Canada; and Kingston, Jamaica.
If you didn't use a semicolon in the above sentence you would have an entire string of commas that would make the format confusing to read.
A funny and informative site to check out in terms of proper use of the semicolon is The Oatmeal.
Have a fan-tabulou day!