I’m a copywriter. I love words. I love writing. However, in an attempt to write well I’ve had to develop an understanding of writing conventions. It’s been a sad journey at times as the intimidation of the grammar and punctuation pedants have often smothered my creative enthusiasm.
Did you have to wade through a comprehensive education in the 1970s? Unfortunately, I did. Perhaps I was incredibly unlucky, but the education I received (I use the term education loosely) occurred at a time when there seemed to be a lapse in the formalised teaching of punctuation. I managed to master the basics; you’ll find an abundance of full stops and capital letters in my writing from yesteryear. However, for anything more sophisticated, it’s been up me to learn how to employ the correct mark. Therefore, I’ve written this piece to offer a sympathetic leg-up to the generation who missed out on understanding the joy of perfect punctuation, particularly the colon and the semicolon.
Do you struggle to punctuate your work effectively? With the plethora of punctuation available writers often find it difficult to adhere to the rules and conventions of English punctuation. One of the most common punctuation tussles seems to be understanding when to employ the colon and the semicolon. They are often sacrificed, albeit incorrectly, in favour of the safety of a comma or a full stop. However, when used correctly, the colon and the semicolon can effectively vary the rhythm and increase the clarity of your work.
The primary role of the semicolon is to link two closely related statements. It is important to note that only complete sentences can be combined using a semicolon and it is essential that they are related in some way.
Selecting appropriate punctuation is not a random affair; there must always be a solid reason for your choice.
Understanding grammar is very important; clear communication is an essential skill.
Semicolons can also be used in a list when separating objects that also have commas.
In the meeting today we have: Dr Foster, University of Gloucester; Colonel Mustard, Army Catering Corps; Professor Castle, Edinburgh University; Dr Tapp, University of Bath; Professor Page, London Business School; and Dr Duke, University of York.
A colon is used to introduce something. It can be followed by a list, a statement or a single word.
They looked at the contents of his pockets haphazardly thrown on the bedside cabinet: a mobile phone, chewing gum, loose change, and a small blue penknife.
The victim’s blood was discovered in two rooms: the bedroom and the bathroom.
His failure can be attributed to one thing: laziness.
Employing the correct punctuation can improve the pace and precision of your work. Furthermore, there are circumstances when the correct punctuation is essential to disambiguate the meaning of sentences. I’ve become very aware of the punctuation police, lurking around every turned down page corner, waiting to pounce on the uneducated pupils of the ’70s. However, if you’re attempting to improve the quality of your writing then please, try not to worry about the intimidation of the literary intelligentsia. By following just a few simple rules, you’ll soon be punctuating your own work with insight and confidence.