Sometimes when we talk about punctuation—you know, like at parties and social gatherings of all kinds!—we talk about rules and errors. What are the rules of using the comma, and when will I know if I break them? Same goes for grammar. Instead of talking about all the cool things we can do with grammar, punctuation, or mechanics, we end up talking about them as potential pathways to embarrassing transgressions. But this lesson is a little different. In this lesson on the semicolon, we’ll learn about rules, yes, but also rhetorical affordances, or the ways you can use a semicolon to create effects in your sentences. The rules are important; no one wants to look dumb. But the rules are somewhat arbitrary. They can, and will, change with future usage. We hope this lesson will help you look beyond the rules to the options available to you as you slap down semicolons in your writing.
Embedded Exercises (download and print out this handout to accompany the exercises on the video)