full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Emma Bryce: How to use a semicolon

Unscramble the Blue Letters

It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity cirsis. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that's why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti. We're confused about how to use them properly. In fact, it's the semicolon's half-half status that makes it useful. It's stronger than a comma, and less final than a poried. It fills the spaces in between, and for that raseon, it has some specific and important tksas. For one, it can clarify iedas in a sentence that's already festooned with camoms. "Semicolons: At first, they may seem fienntrhgig, then, they become eehitnginnlg, finally, you'll find yourself falinlg for these delightful punctuation marks." Even though the commas separate different parts of the sentence, it's easy to lose track of what belongs where. But then the semicolon eegds in to the rusece. In list-like sentences, it can exert more force than commas do, cutting sentences into ctmoeptrmans and grouping items that belong together. The semicolon breaks things up, but it also builds connections. Another of its tasks is to link together independent clauses. These are sentences that can stnad on their own, but when connected by semicolons, look and snoud better because they're related in some way. "Semicolons were once a great mystery to me. I had no idea where to put them." Technically, there's nothing wrong with that. These two sentences can stand alone. But imagine they appeared in a long list of other sceenetns, all of the same lntgeh, each separated by periods. Things would get monotonous very fast. In that situation, semicolons bring fluidity and viaairton to witirng by connecting related clauses. But as beneficial as they are, semicolons don't belong just anywhere. There are two main rules that gveron their use. Firstly, unless they're being used in lists, semicolons should only connect clauses that are related in some way. You wouldn't use one here, for instance: "Semicolons were once a great mrysety to me; I'd really like a sandwich." Periods work best here because these are two totally different ideas. A semicolon's job is to reunite two independent clauses that will benefit from one another's company because they refer to the same thing. Secondly, you'll almost never find a semicolon willingly stationed before cotindoriang conjunctions: the words, "and," "but," "for," "nor," "or," "so," and "yet." That's a comma's plcae, in fact. But a semicolon can replace a conjunction to soetrhn a sentence or to give it some vtrieay. Ultimately, this underappreciated punctuation mark can give writing clarity, force, and style, all encompassed in one tiny dot and squiggle that's just waiting to be put in the right place.

Open Cloze

It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity ______. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that's why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti. We're confused about how to use them properly. In fact, it's the semicolon's half-half status that makes it useful. It's stronger than a comma, and less final than a ______. It fills the spaces in between, and for that ______, it has some specific and important _____. For one, it can clarify _____ in a sentence that's already festooned with ______. "Semicolons: At first, they may seem ___________, then, they become ____________, finally, you'll find yourself _______ for these delightful punctuation marks." Even though the commas separate different parts of the sentence, it's easy to lose track of what belongs where. But then the semicolon _____ in to the ______. In list-like sentences, it can exert more force than commas do, cutting sentences into ____________ and grouping items that belong together. The semicolon breaks things up, but it also builds connections. Another of its tasks is to link together independent clauses. These are sentences that can _____ on their own, but when connected by semicolons, look and _____ better because they're related in some way. "Semicolons were once a great mystery to me. I had no idea where to put them." Technically, there's nothing wrong with that. These two sentences can stand alone. But imagine they appeared in a long list of other _________, all of the same ______, each separated by periods. Things would get monotonous very fast. In that situation, semicolons bring fluidity and _________ to _______ by connecting related clauses. But as beneficial as they are, semicolons don't belong just anywhere. There are two main rules that ______ their use. Firstly, unless they're being used in lists, semicolons should only connect clauses that are related in some way. You wouldn't use one here, for instance: "Semicolons were once a great _______ to me; I'd really like a sandwich." Periods work best here because these are two totally different ideas. A semicolon's job is to reunite two independent clauses that will benefit from one another's company because they refer to the same thing. Secondly, you'll almost never find a semicolon willingly stationed before ____________ conjunctions: the words, "and," "but," "for," "nor," "or," "so," and "yet." That's a comma's _____, in fact. But a semicolon can replace a conjunction to _______ a sentence or to give it some _______. Ultimately, this underappreciated punctuation mark can give writing clarity, force, and style, all encompassed in one tiny dot and squiggle that's just waiting to be put in the right place.

Solution

  1. shorten
  2. sentences
  3. rescue
  4. compartments
  5. falling
  6. tasks
  7. frightening
  8. sound
  9. place
  10. ideas
  11. coordinating
  12. period
  13. stand
  14. variety
  15. govern
  16. reason
  17. writing
  18. enlightening
  19. crisis
  20. length
  21. variation
  22. edges
  23. mystery
  24. commas

Original Text

It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity crisis. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that's why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti. We're confused about how to use them properly. In fact, it's the semicolon's half-half status that makes it useful. It's stronger than a comma, and less final than a period. It fills the spaces in between, and for that reason, it has some specific and important tasks. For one, it can clarify ideas in a sentence that's already festooned with commas. "Semicolons: At first, they may seem frightening, then, they become enlightening, finally, you'll find yourself falling for these delightful punctuation marks." Even though the commas separate different parts of the sentence, it's easy to lose track of what belongs where. But then the semicolon edges in to the rescue. In list-like sentences, it can exert more force than commas do, cutting sentences into compartments and grouping items that belong together. The semicolon breaks things up, but it also builds connections. Another of its tasks is to link together independent clauses. These are sentences that can stand on their own, but when connected by semicolons, look and sound better because they're related in some way. "Semicolons were once a great mystery to me. I had no idea where to put them." Technically, there's nothing wrong with that. These two sentences can stand alone. But imagine they appeared in a long list of other sentences, all of the same length, each separated by periods. Things would get monotonous very fast. In that situation, semicolons bring fluidity and variation to writing by connecting related clauses. But as beneficial as they are, semicolons don't belong just anywhere. There are two main rules that govern their use. Firstly, unless they're being used in lists, semicolons should only connect clauses that are related in some way. You wouldn't use one here, for instance: "Semicolons were once a great mystery to me; I'd really like a sandwich." Periods work best here because these are two totally different ideas. A semicolon's job is to reunite two independent clauses that will benefit from one another's company because they refer to the same thing. Secondly, you'll almost never find a semicolon willingly stationed before coordinating conjunctions: the words, "and," "but," "for," "nor," "or," "so," and "yet." That's a comma's place, in fact. But a semicolon can replace a conjunction to shorten a sentence or to give it some variety. Ultimately, this underappreciated punctuation mark can give writing clarity, force, and style, all encompassed in one tiny dot and squiggle that's just waiting to be put in the right place.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
independent clauses 2
great mystery 2

Important Words

  1. appeared
  2. belong
  3. belongs
  4. beneficial
  5. benefit
  6. breaks
  7. bring
  8. builds
  9. clarify
  10. clarity
  11. clauses
  12. comma
  13. commas
  14. company
  15. compartments
  16. confetti
  17. confused
  18. conjunction
  19. connect
  20. connected
  21. connecting
  22. connections
  23. coordinating
  24. crisis
  25. crossed
  26. cutting
  27. delightful
  28. dot
  29. easy
  30. edges
  31. encompassed
  32. enlightening
  33. exert
  34. fact
  35. falling
  36. fast
  37. festooned
  38. fills
  39. final
  40. finally
  41. find
  42. firstly
  43. fluidity
  44. force
  45. frightening
  46. give
  47. govern
  48. grammatical
  49. great
  50. grouping
  51. idea
  52. ideas
  53. identity
  54. imagine
  55. important
  56. independent
  57. items
  58. job
  59. length
  60. link
  61. list
  62. lists
  63. long
  64. lose
  65. main
  66. mark
  67. marks
  68. monotonous
  69. mystery
  70. parts
  71. period
  72. periods
  73. place
  74. properly
  75. punctuation
  76. put
  77. reason
  78. refer
  79. related
  80. replace
  81. rescue
  82. reunite
  83. rules
  84. sandwich
  85. semicolon
  86. semicolons
  87. sentence
  88. sentences
  89. separate
  90. separated
  91. shorten
  92. situation
  93. sound
  94. spaces
  95. specific
  96. squiggle
  97. stand
  98. stationed
  99. status
  100. stronger
  101. struggling
  102. style
  103. tasks
  104. technically
  105. tiny
  106. toss
  107. totally
  108. track
  109. ultimately
  110. underappreciated
  111. variation
  112. variety
  113. waiting
  114. willingly
  115. words
  116. work
  117. writing
  118. wrong