What do you notice about the clause before the semicolon and the one after?
- They are both independent clauses, which means they could stand on their own because they have a subject and verb.
- They are not joined by a conjunction like and or but.
- The two clauses are closely related.
- The second clause follows naturally and logically.
The two sentences go hand in hand, don’t they?
And, that is the essence of the semicolon.
What Makes Semicolon so Effective when Used Correctly?
The semicolon provides a nice, clean feel. Because it’s used when you have two sentences that complement each other so well, additional connecting words are simply not necessary. To add them might take away from the message. Here’s what I mean:
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him; I never dreamt this day would come.
As you can see, these sentences tell a story that imply a great deal of emotion. By using the semicolon, we keep the sentences concise and allow the story to shine through without extraneous words.
Here’s another example:
She’d always wondered what it would be like to be on stage; now she knows.
Now, you could say:
She’d always wondered what it would be like to be on stage, and now she knows.
But is the word and really necessary? It’s subjective, but without it, I think we can agree that the message is more succinct.
A Note about the Period…
Now, you could use a period after each sentence and avoid the semicolon all together. There is nothing grammatically wrong with this. The only catch is that your message might be perceived as “choppy.” This can happen when you have two or more short sentences in a row that follow a similar structure. Take a look and see if you can feel the difference:
They had been searching for the treasure for eons now; they were losing hope.
They had been searching for the treasure for eons now. They were losing hope.
Again, both sentences are grammatically correct, but do you notice the elegance of the first sentence compared to the second? That is the power of the semicolon.