Is the semicolon in danger?

Posted on May 2, 2010

 

Of all the elements of punctuation available for use, the semicolon is one of the least understood and, perhaps because of that, it is less frequently used than the more straightforward colon and the popular comma. On the Web, many SEO copywriters have a tendency to try and write in short sentences, so possibly longer versions, where two thoughts are joined by a semicolon, become neglected.

Exactly how the semicolon should be used is really up to the writer and the meaning they are trying to convey, but there are a few simple rules that must apply. When a semicolon is used to join two sentences, they must be sentences which would otherwise be able to stand alone; it is also important that there should be no joining word between them such as ‘and’. The use of a semicolon rather than a full stop implies that the sentences are closely related.

Sometimes the semicolon and the colon are confused, but the colon is quite a different option. Colons need not always be followed by a complete sentence, for example. What comes before a colon is further explained or described in detail after the colon. People seem to use colons more frequently than semicolons: they are easier to understand.

As the demands of SEO copywriting encourage writers to use clear and concise language, it would seem sensible to use whatever punctuation is most appropriate in order to convey a particular meaning. Wise content writers will consider adding the semicolon to their range of possibilities for punctuation.

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