Using Semicolons

We can join independent clauses (IC) to create compound sentences by using a semicolon (;).   And like the comma-FANBOYS pattern, when we construct a compound sentence using the semicolon, we ask our readers to understand that the two ideas logically relate to each other.

The pattern for compound sentences using a semicolon is easy to remember:

examples

IC ; IC.

We must, however, make sure that there is an independent clause on both sides of the semicolon every time we use one. A common mistake is to place a fragment to the right of the semicolon.

Note that the
independent
clause (IC) on
either side of
the semicolon
could stand
alone as a
simple sentence.
Examples:

Small farmers, represented by the Scarecrow, were oppressed by Eastern bankers; the industrial workers, represented by the Tin Man, were also oppressed.

Baum's book is a political allegory; few people today would recognize the original events in this story.

The Wizard of Oz is a story of economic reform; Oz is short for ounce, signifying the gold standard.

The real Oz, the man behind the curtain, was neither great nor powerful; the story portrays an ineffective president as a bumbling wizard.

Unlike the comma-FANBOYS pattern, however, the use of a simple semicolon does not specify the relationship.

As a result, we must be sure to give the reader sufficient clues to understand the relationship(s) we intend.

Another option is a variation on the simple semicolon pattern, using a conjunctive adverb to indicate the relationship between the two independent clauses along with the semicolon, which joins the clauses:

Conjunctive
ca),
however, do
NOT join the
clauses; the
semicolon does.
A conjunctive
signifies how
the two clauses
are related.

IC ; ca, IC.

Considering that there are only five types of relationships which we can signify by use of the FANBOYS, this pattern gives us a great deal of flexibility and choice when constructing compound sentences.

 Logic FANBOYS ca conjunctive adverbs (do not join clauses) Addition and in addition, too, moreover, also, additionally, furthermore, further, again, besides Comparison likewise, similarly, by comparison Opposition, Contrast, Concession but, yet however, nevertheless, on the other hand, in contrast Cause for Result or Effect so therefore, thus, hence, as a result, consequently, accordingly Choice, Option, Alternative or, nor on the other hand, alternatively Example, Illustration, Explanation, Reason for example, indeed, for instance, certainly, in fact, or course Time first, now, next, then, last, subsequently, second, third, afterwards, later, previously, before that, finally Digression incidentally, by the way Summary in summary, in brief, in short, in a word

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In addition to signifying a specific relationship between ideas, the compound structure also tells the reader that these clauses are valued equally--that one idea is no more important than the other.

This is as true of the compound sentence constructed with a semicolon as with a comma and FANBOYS.

If I choose to indicate contrast between my ideas by using the conjunctive adverb "however," wanting my reader to see the difference(s) between my ideas, I am also indicating to my reader that each independent clause should be equally valued.

Note that the signified relationship is the same whether we choose to use "but" or "however," that in both cases the compound pattern indicates equality of value, but that the use of the semicolon and conjunctive adverb creates a more dramatic voice.

Both patterns are grammatically correct; the choice is one of style.

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Examples:

L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz for his daughter; nevertheless, the book was much more than a child's story.

Baum's book is a political allegory; on the other hand, few people today would recognize the original events in this story.

The Wizard of Oz is a story of economic reform. Oz is short for ounce, signifying the gold standard; in addition, the characters represented groups in American society.

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