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!