Can you correct the error in the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.
After dinner, Mrs. Charles lead us in the singing of the school song.
I usually enjoy Mary Norris’s articles about language. She’s a former copyeditor for The New Yorker and a terrific writer–funny, readable, and informative.
But…yikes! Sometimes she goes overboard. Here are her thoughts about semicolons:
That is, commas, semicolons, and colons were plugged into a sentence in order to highlight, subordinate, or otherwise conduct its elements, connecting them syntactically. One of the rules is that, unless you are composing a list, a semicolon is supposed to be followed by a complete clause, capable of standing on its own….Sentence length has something to do with it—a long, complex sentence may benefit from a clarifying semicolon—but if a sentence scans without a semicolon it’s best to leave it alone.
Anyone reading that would decide that it’s best not to attempt to use a semicolon at all – ever.
There’s an easier way. Just write two sentences. Change the first period to a semicolon. Lower-case the next word (unless it needs a capital letter). You’re done!
Tuesday is my birthday. I’m throwing a party. CORRECT
Tuesday is my birthday; I’m throwing a party. CORRECT
Some of my writer friends blanch when they hear this. They insist that you have to make semicolons difficult!
No, you don’t. So there!
After dinner, Mrs. Charles led us in the singing of the school song. CORRECT
What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You is available in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.com and other online booksellers.
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