The Semicolon

Chris Lele
Lesson by Chris Lele
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh SAT
In this video we are going to talk about the semicolon. And here is the function. It is to separate independent clauses. It's really all it does. Of course, there is a connection between the independent clauses that we'll talk about here in a moment.

So here's a correct version. Few students take advantage of the semicolon. That is a complete sentence. Students, verb, semicolon, everyone's happy. Now we get consequently, this is a conjunction adverb, don't worry about that, just know that if you see consequently or therefore you are starting a new sentence or a new independent clause.

So this is great, because sometimes that test will try to trick you by throwing in a comma there. But if you start a new sentence right here with this conjunctive adverb, then you're fine. You're fine and putting a semicolon. And this doesn't have to be uppercase.

You can have two independent clauses, one that has lowercase right here. And consequently, their essays end up lacking sophistication is perfectly fine. So this is what we want to see when we use a semicolon. Connecting independent clauses without a conjunction. This is a common error the SAT will throw at you. Semicolon and conjunction, no.

It should just be semicolon. Their essays end up lacking sophistication. That would be fine as well. Now a second ago, I talked about the connection between the independent clauses. Because why even use a semicolon?

Isn't it like an annoying punctuation mark kind of pretentious what's the point? Well there is actually a point as long as you don't overdue it and that's if the two clauses the two independent clauses are very closely related in terms of thought. You don't wanna have a full stop and then start again because it will make your writing choppy, so you want it to flow a little bit more and you want to acknowledge that there is a clean connection.

A clean logical and close connection between the two clauses. Look here, few students take advantage of the semicolon. Their essays end up lacking sophistication. Those are very closely related. So you can just say semicolon. It's nice to have the consequently in their because we're using this, what we called logical coordination, making sure that they match up logically, so it's nice to have a word like consequently in this case.

Let's look at some other offenders. Few students take advantage of the semicolon; so their essays end up lacking sophistication. What did I do? I dropped FANBOY in there. That's a conjunction.

FAN BOYS. Remember that? That's the So in the FAN BOYS, the S part. So it should just have a comma so, not the semicolon. So that's also wrong. Few students take advantage of the semicolon. Is there anything wrong here?

Is this good? Look closely. Look at the second part. What do you see? Aha! That's not a complete sentence.

Their essays lacking sophistication is dependent on something, dependent clause. So we want a comma there, not a semicolon. So that's another common misuse. Here we have the nice, few students take advantage of the semicolon, comma so there, the way that I corrected it here earlier. This is a nice way of doing it if you wanna comma, though this way is absolutely fine.

The test would never ask you to choose between these two or even choose one where you don't have a semicolon or where you don't have a so or therefore consequently connecting it, but you just have a semicolon and start over again the way we did there, their essays lack sophistication. So what the test will test. Is this stuff right here, semicolon and clearly wrong, semicolon dependent clause.

Clearly wrong. That's what you need a master for the test. And that's really it for the semicolon. It's about practicing that. Now, I'm going to have another slide here, something that really isn't covered on the test, but I thought I'd throw it in here because it will help you guys become better writers and better readers.

Semicolons can also use clauses that can be connected by conjunctions but that have a certain parallel structure. And this is sort of a rhetorical thing. People do it in rhetoric to give strength in their worlds. It was a difficult day. It was a terrible day.

We use a semicolon, where you could just say and but look. Something is lost there. Some force It was a difficult day and it was a terrible day. Badum, badum, badum, not that interesting. But again, the original. It was a difficult day; it was a terrible day.

Very closely related when you read it. It resounds more powerfully and notice how parallel it is. It was, it was. That's when we like to use semicolons. Also we have here he had a curious mind, capable of digesting anything. He had, notice how it repeats that again.If we just had a sentence there or rather a full stop period that would kind of be choppy and if we just put a comma and, it would lose that rhetorical force so we use semicolon, so you can do that in your writing and often times this is a good way to Write a conclusion at the end of the essay.

And why not just throw another example in there to get a feel for it? Climate change is a real threat. Semicolon. It must be dealt with by real solutions. Dang, that's a nice way to end an essay if you can whip that out. So again, they're not going to test this specific way of using a semicolon but it's nice to know for your essay.

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