Writing Correctness - Semicolons

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  • Mrs. Smith is passing back papers that the students turned in last week. Everyone in the classroom is fidgetting in their seats, but Jenny is calm and collected because she knows she has this assignment in the bag. 
  • Mrs. Smith! I received a 99! How is this possible? I don't see what I did wrong!
  • A semicolon? I don't even know how to use a semicolon!
  • I can't remember the last time I had a birthday party, but I remember that my favorite part was helping my mom decorate the birthday cake. My mom would let me mix all the ingredients in the bowl. I was too young to do much of anything else. My mother spread chocolate frosting on my birthday cake she knew it was my favorite. My mother would laugh when I blew out all the candles but one. We would sit on the porch while we ate our cake.
  • Jenny McGrove
  • You are correct, Jenny. You see, you had a fused sentence in your writing. To earn back that extra point, I would try adding a semicolon to separate your fused sentence!
  • Well, it seems as though we have some discussing to do!
  • 99%
  • First of all, we need to know why we use a semicolon. Semicolons are used to separate two independent clauses. An independent clause is a complete sentence that can stand on its own. We will use Jenny's independent clauses for our discussion. For example: "My mother spread chocolate frosting on my birthday cake. She knew it was my favorite." When Jenny adds a semicolon in between the two independent clauses, the sentence would look something like this: "My mother spread chocolate frosting on my birthday cake; she knew it was my favorite." Semicolons combine sentences without having to use a comma followed by a conjunction word such as and, but, yet, or nor.
  • Not necessarily! Just because we know why we use a semicolon and how a semicolon can be used in Jenny's paper doesn't mean that we know how or when to use it in other situations! For example, one of the most important things to know is that a semicolon strengthens an idea. You wouldn't use a semicolon to connect an independent clause about a cake with an independent clause about a fuzzy cat! That's just silly!
  • Is that all there is to know?! That's so easy!
  • We haven't even talked about my favorite use for semicolons yet! Did you know that semicolons allow you to connect items in a list that already use a comma to separate ideas? This is often found when listing places or locations. For example: "The manufacturing company for my favorite chocolate frosting can be found in Atlanta, Georgia; Boston, Massachusetts; and San Franciso, California." Also, I could use semicolons to describe items in a list! For example: "My mother let me add my favorite cake toppings which include sprinkles, the tiny rainbow ones; chocolate chips, the ones that melt in your mouth; and whipped cream, the one topping my mother thinks doesn't belong on a cake!"
  • Now, I know that I have given you all an earful of information but how are we feeling about sentences that include semicolons? Class? Are you with me?
  • 
  • We're sorry, Mrs. Smith! We just have so many new ideas that we have to get down! That semicolon is going to get me that one point back and so much more! 
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