Here’s the first of a series on punctuation (not necessarily appearing one right after the other). Let’s call this one high (school) colonics

I almost never used to see this, but over the last decade or so, I run across a steady stream… of semicolons (;) being used where a colon (:) should belong.

[Meanwhile, I advise watching out when you’re writing in Word, and try to put a single typed character in parentheses; before I went back to fix it, that one had been turned into a danged smiley J!]

Anyway, to review for those who’ve forgotten (or never were taught it):

The semicolon (;) is used in two ways:

(1)    To separate two complete sentences that somehow relate to each other: It was a cloudy day; however, he had not considered it enough of a threat of rain to pack an umbrella.

(2)    Instead of commas, to separate several items in a series, especially when the items include commas within themselves: He brought three items with him: a light parka, for shelter against the wind; his laptop computer; and a sandwich for lunch.

Those are its ONLY real functions.

Meanwhile, the colon (:) [ah, gotcha that time!] is used before a list of examples of what the earlier part of the sentence is talking about; in some cases [notice the deft insertion of the semicolon?] , it can also be used to add an elaboration on the theme presented: that is to say, it may enhance and clarify the reader’s understanding of the writer’s position. (Note: While I realize this was basically just a redundancy, it nevertheless did demonstrate the concept at least somewhat.)

[It may also be noted, for those less ingrained in typing skills, that the colon is the upper-case version of the semicolon. Remember to SHIFT to get the colon to show up on the page … GA In-joke: (1) How many among you have ever misspelled the second word in the title, since high school days? (2) How many have been able to forget the dadblasted mnemonic for remembering it? That’s the only reason I used it there …]

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