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The semicolon is one of the most useful but least used punctuation marks.
Many people avoid the semicolon. Some even seem to dislike it, but it does not have to be that way. The source of avoidance or dislike is the lack of understanding of the proper role of the semicolon. If a comma is a yellow light and a period is a red light, the semicolon is a flashing red--one of the lights you drive through a brief pause.
Here's when to use it.
1. Use a semicolon to separate clauses when there's no and in between.
2. Use semicolons to separate items in a series when there's already a comma in one or more of the items.
Think of the colon as punctuation's master of ceremonies. Use it to present something: a statement, a series, a quotation, or instructions. But remember that a colon is an abrupt stop, almost like a period. Use one only if you want your sentence to brake completely. Here is how to do it.
1. Use a colon instead of a comma, if you wish, to introduce a quotation.
Many people prefer to introduce a longer quotation with a colon instead of a comma.
2. Use a colon to introduce a list, if what comes before the colon could be a small sentence in itself (it has both a subject and a verb).
Just don't use the colon to separate a verb from the rest of the sentence. In John's shopping cart were: a Bordeaux, a Merlot, and a Chardonnay. If you don't need a colon, why use one? In John's shopping cart were a Bordeaux, a Merlot, and a Chardonnay.
And that's it folks. Wasn't that easy?
Reference: Woe is I, by Patricia T. O'Connor
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