Sunday, September 06, 2009

Grammar: Semi scoping the colon

Are you confused by when to use the colon and when you should use the semi-colon? It seems evident, but everyone needs a little help now and then, so let's get down to business.

If two independent clauses are connected, either by emphasizing or restating the first clause or when they are of equal emphasis, use a semicolon when connecting two independent clauses together. Sounds like Greek to me, but it's much clearer in practice.

Bram Stoker's novels are still popular today; Dracula and The Jewel of Seven Stars have outsold all the rest and have been the basis of several movies.

If using a conjunctive adverb (however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus, meanwhile, nonetheless, otherwise) or a transition (in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, even so) to connect two independent clauses, a semicolon is used.

Romance novels are a thriving business and sell more copies than any other genre; however, romance as a genre remains a niche market.

When the individual items of a series includes commas, use a semicolon.

In movies, Dracula has been traveled to cities around the world, including New Orleans, Louisiana; London, England; Bucharest, Romania; Richmond, Virginia; New York City, New York, etc.

When the second of two independent clauses is emphasized, use a colon.

Roanoke is where Virginia Dare was born and went missing: historians and writers continue to look for traces of her.

Independent clauses followed by lists, a quotation, appositive, or other idea directly related to the clause should be followed by a colon.

Labor Day means a three-day weekend for most people, but for me it means one more day to get chores done: laundry, dishes, cleaning, reviews, critiques, letters and cleaning the toilet. Are we having fun yet?

Instead of hanging out a shingle, she should put up a neon sign: friend, cheap rates.

Lionel Trilling might have been writing about the current health care debate, which is touted as a charitable and Utopian ideal: "We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian."

At the end of greetings in business letters, a colon is required.

Dear Random House Editor: (although it's best to find out the name of the Random House editor first if you want to avoid the slush pile)

Everyone knows about separating the hour and minute with a colon.

5:00 P.M.

Separate the chapter and verse in Bible quotations with a colon.

Song of Solomon 5:8

Well, that was refreshing and short, compared to the comma coma of weeks before, but I hope you learned something; I certainly did. I knew most of these, but there's always a surprise somewhere or a rule I have forgotten because I don't use it much. Until next week, I wish you good grammar and easily fixed grammar goofs.

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