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The Semicolon—Sassy and Snooty—Rules and Uses

Updated on May 10, 2017
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Cynthia is a writer, artist, and teacher. She loves studying language, arts and culture and sharing that knowledge.

Lady Semicolon - Snooty and Sassy
Lady Semicolon - Snooty and Sassy | Source

The Semicolon: She's Quite the Character

Imagine an upright lady adorned with lace gloves, corsets and curly-cue hair. Now you're getting an idea of the fancy Semicolon. She's snooty and sassy; she's a lady with Elizabethan roots.

Where did she come from?

An emergent character of the Renaissance era, she began to make her appearances just two years after Spain sent Columbus overseas.

A fine gentleman named Aldus Manutius began to use Miss Semicolon to highlight separate but interdependent statements in 1494.

From there, Lady Semicolon began showing up at ever-fancier parties of words and gatherings.

Authors the world over summoned Miss Semicolon in their literary circles; Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens were among her most supportive fans. George Orwell, however, couldn't stand her. He avoided Snooty Semicolon whenever possible. So did the American author Donald Barthelme.

Still, many literary types persist in using Lady Semicolon in their writings. She's ready to add her elegant touch to those who do not submit to her intimidation.

A Dinner Party for Lackluster Statements

Little Miss Semicolon chooses her surrounding company carefully. Her task is not a "job", but more like a social appearance at an esoteric gathering of followers.

She likes it that way. She avails herself to writers that boldly request her presence; other authors cringe in intimidation.

If you stand up to Snooty Semicolon, she will valiantly adorn your writing. She will infuse an air of grace to lackluster, short, block-y statements:

My hair was a mess this morning. I pinned it up. No one noticed.

These three sentences are short and stubby. Now, let's summon Lady Semicolon with her fancy graces:

My hair was a mess this morning; I pinned it up and no one noticed.

See? Miss Snooty graced us with her presence. I do believe we're better for it! She has refined our sentences and invited them to the dinner party.

We Know Charles Dickens Had Complex Sentences, But Did You Know...

Will you submit to the wishes of the Lady?  Will you allow intimidation to hold you back?
Will you submit to the wishes of the Lady? Will you allow intimidation to hold you back? | Source

Take a Look: A Haven for Punctuation Junkies

Snooty Semicolon Eschews Common Colon

Lady Semicolon is a cousin to Common Colon. She doesn't like to associate with him very much. He shows up where Dawdling Dash hangs out. These functions are too informal for her.

Common Colon shows up at the end of a sentence. He feels the need to explain himself further or offer up excuses to elongate statements. In other words, he must strain to supplement his sentences with more words.

Home ownership is sometimes a trying process: my bathroom faucet exploded this morning, spraying water all over me before I even had my first cup of coffee.

Colon also shows up to help make lists. Semicolon doesn't make lists; she's above such things!

I don't need much to be happy: a million dollars, a nice man, and a beach vacation.

There is one area in a punctuated life where Miss Semicolon garners a bit of jealously for Colon: he sets himself off in book titles.

The Life of the Chubby Black Cat: How His Antics Drove Me Batty

Rags to Chic: A Love Affair With Goodwill

A Walk In the Desert: How I Survived

So, with so much attention given to Colon, Snooty Semicolon crosses her arms and stamps away. Not to worry, though. She finds plenty of intellectual stimulation elsewhere.

Do You Use Lady Semicolon In Your Writing?

See results

Charles Dickens: A Master With Snooty Semicolon

"Both the world of fashion and the Court of Chancery are things of precedent and usage; oversleeping Rip Van Winkles, who have played at strange games through a deal of thundery weather; sleeping beauties, whom the Knight will wake one day, when all the stopped spits in the kitchen shall begin to turn prodigiously!" --Bleak House

Snooty Semicolon and Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive what? A disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, conjunctive adverbs leave their owners mentally insane and without a will to live. Wait...that may be how people sometimes feel when asked to commiserate with Snooty Semicolon. Conjunctive adverbs are certainly not a disease.

But, Miss Semicolon doesn't have her nose too high in the air. She loves to have dinner parties with conjunctive adverbs. She knows they get a bad rap for their cumbersome name. She always dances with them and inserts herself just before the conjunctive adverb, then pairs up with her friend Cantankerous Comma.

Who are Sassy Semicolon's adverbial friends?

  • However
  • Nevertheless
  • Hence
  • Moreover
  • Furthermore
  • Consequently

She has more friends, but the ones above are her absolute favorites. Just wait until they pair up - fantastic statements emerge that draw the reader in:

She bites her nails; consequently, her hands look terrible.

I enjoy mountain biking; however, I crash into tress on occasion.

Her hair is dark and shiny; moreover, she uses vinegar to condition it!

Is Semicolon Really That Snooty and Sassy?

Sure, Semicolon loves her lace gloves and formal dinner parties. She doesn't give Common Colon the time of day. She enjoys intimidating writers into a wanton disassociation of her.

She'll have you know that she's just a girl who wants to be loved just like anyone else, though. She doesn't mean to be trite with the commoners; she merely wants to live life on the up and up. She can't stand uppity comments in her honor, but prefers to surround herself with fine words and punctuated entities that enhance her propensity for lavishness.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 4 years ago from Western NC

      Kelley - aww, thank you! I am finding ways to incorporate my wacky humor into more articles. :D Hubhugs!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      I love it, I love it, I love it. Did I use the comma correctly? Pinned voted up, funny, and useful. Kelley

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Julie - hehe, yes, the Common Colon. He might deserve a hub sometime, but for now, I'm enjoying the "words" part of grammar. :D I may return to punctuation soon, though. Hubhugs!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I'm a semicolon fan too. Nice article! :o) - this last thingie is not punctuation, just a colon hanging out with a lower case vowel and a closing parenthesis, colons know no shame.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      MT - you're so funny. :) Miss Semicolon will come around if you give her a chance. I KNOW she will just LOVE your writing. :D (HUGS)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Another entertaining and informative hub cclitgirl! Little Miss Semicolon does show up in some of my writing, but I do try to avoid her as I am never sure of my manners. Just like I get nervous over which fork to pick up at a dinner party, I am afraid Miss Semicolon might object to being placed by the wrong words.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      MoiraCrochets - hehe. With your username, I'm guessing you do crochet? In any case, thank you so much for stopping by and I appreciate your comments. :)

    • MoiraCrochets profile image

      Moira Durano-Abesmo 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

      You are welcome. I'm excited for your next grammar hub that's why I followed you. ",)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hehehe...thanks for stopping by, MoiraCrochets. That's it - I'm just going to have to make more grammar hubs. hehehe. I admit, I was a little intimidated writing these - I mean who actually WANTS to read about grammar? I tried to make it fun. :D Based on the feedback, maybe I can help "teach" people that grammar doesn't have to be drudgery.

    • MoiraCrochets profile image

      Moira Durano-Abesmo 5 years ago from Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

      What a creative way to present what otherwise would be an intimidating topic! I don't love grammar that much but if my teacher taught it this way, I might have changed my mind.

      Congratulations!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      LucidWarrior - Sassy Semicolon appreciates such judicious use of her services. :D Haha, thanks for stopping by, LucidWarrior. Perfect use of Lady Semicolon.

    • LucidWarrior profile image

      David Cook 5 years ago from Suburban Philadelphia

      Very creative piece. I love using semicolons; however, I try to use the sparingly and with purpose. Luv the hub.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hehe, thanks for voting and sharing, Robin. :) I'm glad you found this helpful. :)

    • Robin Oatley profile image

      Robin Oatley 5 years ago

      Haha, this is a great way to actually learn something useful about grammar! Most of the time, I just use whatever feels good, and it often turns out to be right. However I'm not flawless, so nice to learn the actual rules from you! Voted up and Shared!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks for commenting, Stephanie. hehe. Semicolon always has her composure about her doesn't she? Hehe. I appreciate your votes and your SHARING! :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Beautiful and creative approach to teaching the uses and value of the semicolon! I love your comparison to an elegant lady, and the accompanying pictures! This was an interesting, informative and fun read! Voted up and SHARED!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      tirelesstraveler - thank you so much for your kind words. :) Sassy Semicolon expresses her appreciation. :D

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing; this fun hub was well worth the read.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Aw, thanks, Alecia. It's fun coming up with ways to make grammar fun. I liked it so much in school, but I had a crazy teacher who would let us have fun with it - so I try to do the same in my hubs. :) Thanks for stopping by.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Haha, Vinaya, just keep reading, I'll be posting more here and there about grammar stuff. Don't pay for more schooling. Hehehe. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks alocsin - great to see you. I'm glad you are liking this style - it's something new for me. :)

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      You have a way with grammar and with writing. Awesome job! It was a great read and interesting history.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Another great article about the rules of grammar. I feel like going to school again and learning the language.

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      I like the style of your grammar hubs. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      noturningback - thanks for stopping by! In the two months I've been here, I've learned an encyclopedic volume of information. Such fun! :)

    • noturningback profile image

      noturningback 5 years ago from Edgewater, MD. USA

      Learning something new each day; thank you for the help in punctuation cclitgirl.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      billybuc - great to see you! I appreciate your comment. :) I'm glad you like it.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Calhoun 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Soprano. Isn't the Waterhouse something? When I saw it, I just knew I had to include it. Thanks for stopping by.

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      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love this hub; great sense of humor and imagery...nice job!

    • SopranoRocks profile image

      SopranoRocks 5 years ago from Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA

      Love this! I use the semicolon a lot; probably too much. I think maybe 90% of the time I use it correctly. Oh and I love the Waterhouse image. He is one of my favorite artists!

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