|(I do find Melville references hilarious!)|
Every writer, editor, and reader has their favorite punctuation and mine has always been the semicolon. It's simple, straight-forward, and has rules you cannot break. Yet, time and time again, I correct flyers, Facebook posts, and, yes, manuscripts too. I think having to read Melville in school will do that to a brain, make you think you need to use way more than is good for you. But I'm here to tell you: when in doubt, leave them out.
Semicolons have two uses. Use them only under these two circumstances:
- Connect two independent clauses of related thoughts or,
- Separate items in a complicated list.
Of course, the explanations:
- The key here is "independent clauses". When using a semicolon, you must have a sentence that can stand on its own on each side of the punctuation. "I found him super attractive; the once-a-month wolf thing is a major turn on for me."
- A complicated list can contain multiple items that need a comma: "My vacation bag contained the following: sunscreen; a big, pointed stake; cloves of garlic; a blue, shimmery, wolf-repellent cape." Or, a complicated list can be one containing dates: "June 4th, 1492; April 2nd, 1998; December 6th, 1649."
|Of course, there are a few other reasons to use one...|