Did I Use This Right, “ ;) ”????

A guide to using semicolons

(And to answer that no, the proper use of a semicolon is not for a winky face.)

Do you have more than two, three, semicolons in that one page write up your professor made you write for history? If you answered yes chances are you don’t need to use a semicolon for some of those sentences.

So why does everyone do it? What’s the misconception?

semiThere it is! People often link sentences together because they believe they fit together. In reality, a semicolon is a subtle way of connecting closely related ideas when a style mark stronger than a comma is needed. By using semicolons effectively, you can make your writing sound more sophisticated. The clause following a semicolon often restates an idea expressed in the first clause; it sometimes expands on or presents a contrast to the first. (See what I did there?) Ok,maybe not. Here is another example:

Immigration acts were passed; newcomers had to provide, besides moral correctness and financial solvency, their ability to read.

–Mary Gordon, “ More Than Just a Shrine”

This semicolon gives the sentence an abrupt rhythm that suits the topic.

So is it that simple; is that really all there is to it?

Nope. In fact, I probably didn’t need to use a semicolon for the sentence above!.

Semicolon Rules and Conventions

Use a semicolon to:


  1. Link two independent clauses to connect closely related ideas. An independent clause is a sentence that contains a subject and a predicate, and it either stands alone or could stand alone. But be careful not to misuse it. Generally speaking, where you can use a comma instead of a semicolon you should.

Example: The math exam will be difficult and extensive; the exam will cover topics starting from section 1.2 to sections 3.8.

2. Link clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases to connect closely related ideas. (Conjunctive adverbs indicate a connection between 2 independent clauses in one sentence. Or they may link the ideas in 2 or more sentences. Or they may show relationships between ideas within an independent clause. Examples include also, however, otherwise, consequently, indeed, similarly, finally, likewise, then, furthermore, moreover, therefore, hence, nevertheless, nonetheless.)

Example: Bring any two items; however, sleeping bags and tents are in short supply.

3. Link lists where the items contain commas to avoid confusion between list items.

Example: I have been to Newcastle, Carlisle, and York in the North; Bristol, Exeter, and Portsmouth in the South; and Cromer, Norwich, and Lincoln in the East.

4. If there is no coordinating conjunction do not use a comma. Instead use a semicolon.

5. Do not use a semicolon where a comma does the job.

kidHere is my piece of advice to you. DO NOT OVERUSE THE SEMICOLON. It is a delicate tool that when overused takes away its significance. Generally speaking if you can
make it two sentences you should, but when they are closely related and make a killer sentence, go for it! By Using Semicolons Effectively, You Can Make Your Writing Sound More Sophisticated.


Sources: “Using Semicolons.” Grammar and Punctuation:. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.



In Tense Verbs Are Intense

tense-llamaVerb tense can be a tricky, even seasoned writers can sometimes make mistakes with verb tense. A verb tense refers to a modification of a verb in order to make it clear where in time it happens, or happened (see what I do there? Crap! I mean “did.”)

Verb tense falls into three main categories: present or base form, past tense,future. Some examples:

  • Present: I ask
  • Past: I asked
  • Future: I will ask

Something to keep in mind is the participle, a modification of a verb that can be either used for past and present tense actions or as an adjective:

  • Past Participle: add “ed” or “d
  • Present Participle: add “ing”

There are also more complex verb tenses, often relying on set up words like has, am, and will in conjunction with modifications to the verb. These fall under Progressives, signifying an ongoing action, Perfects, which mean completed actions, and Perfect Progressives, which are somewhere in the middle:

  • Present Progressive: I am asking
  • Past Progressive: I was asking
  • Future Progressive: I will be asking
  • Present Perfect: I have asked
  • Past Perfect: I had asked
  • Future Perfect: I will have asked
  • Present Perfect Progressive: I have been asking
  • Past Perfect Progressive:I had been asking
  • Future Perfect Progressive: I will have been asking

You may notice that, in this case, “ask” is modified in only a few ways into its participles: “ask” “asked” and “asking” (when writing 3rd Person Verbs, you will use “asks” instead of “ask”). Most verbs use this system of modification; however, there are many irregular verbs that can be tricky. There are too many to list them all, but here are some examples with Base Form⇒ Past Tense ⇒ Past Participle:

  • arise⇒ arose⇒ arisen
  • be⇒ was/were⇒ been
  • become⇒ became⇒ become
  • break⇒ broke⇒ broken
  • choose ⇒ chose ⇒ chosen
  • cost⇒ cost⇒ cost
  • do⇒ did⇒ done
  • draw⇒ drew⇒ drawn
  • drink⇒ drank⇒ drunk
  • eat⇒ ate⇒ eaten
  • Fall ⇒ fell ⇒ fallen
  • fly⇒ flew⇒ flown
  • Get ⇒ got⇒ gotten/got
  • grow⇒ grew ⇒ grown
  • hide⇒ hid ⇒ hidden
  • hit⇒ hit⇒ hit
  • know⇒ knew ⇒ knowngosling
  • lay⇒ laid ⇒ laid
  • Lie ⇒ lay ⇒ lain
  • make⇒ made⇒ made
  • pay⇒ paid ⇒ paid
  • put⇒ put ⇒ put
  • read⇒ read ⇒ read
  • ride⇒ rode ⇒ ridden
  • say⇒ said⇒ said
  • see⇒ saw⇒ seen
  • shake⇒ shook⇒ shaken
  • take⇒ took⇒ taken
  • wear⇒ wore⇒ worn
  • Write ⇒ wrote ⇒ written

It is important to keep all verb tense in order in order for sentences to make sense:

  • I went to the bank, then I am going to eat. ⇐ WRONG, mixed tense
  • I am going to the bank, then I am going to eat. ⇐ RIGHT
  • I went to the bank, then I ate. ⇐ RIGHT
  • I went to the bank, now I am going to eat. ⇐ RIGHT, “now” sets up tense change

Hopefully, you can make your verbs the correct tense without getting too tense.



Peanut butter, caramel, marshmallow, what do these things have in common. They are all delicious treats, that also can be used to hold things together. As much as I would like to write about my favorite snacks, instead i’m going to talk about the glue that holds writing together… Transitions!

Without transitions holding together ideas and topics, your argument can seem “jumpy” and lacking connection. No one wants that. If you want your writing to be smooth and easy to follow, you need to use transitions.

Now the key question is, what exactly are transitions? They range from paragraphs, to phrases, to sentences, to simply just a few words. What’s most important is that they get the reader from point A to point B in the clearest way possible.


  • I have been to many countries. For example, I have been to Russia, Canada, Mexico, and Spain.
    • Using “For example” lets the reader know that the next point you’re going to bring up is related to the previous point in that they are examples.
  • Tim was late. As a result, we could not go to the concert.
    • “As a result” is used to connect the next idea of missing the concert, with Tim being late.

If you take out these transitions, the sentences still make sense, but they sound choppy and separated. Also these transitions help the reader know where the writer is going next. It’s like saying “Hey, another idea is coming that’s related to what I just said!”, or “Now I’m going to give an exception.” Instead of yelling at your audience that another idea is coming, you can use transition words to get this point across. Transitions lead the reader from one idea to another.

Another important thing to understand about transitions, is how long they should be.

Transitions to connect sections: This should be used for longer essays and writing. You should add a paragraph in between the sections that summarizes what you just said, along with referencing its relevance to the next section.

Transitions to connect paragraphs and sentences: These can be short phrases that summarize and connect the past paragraph to what is going to be discussed in the next, or simply a few words that do the same.

Some simple transition words are:

  • However
  • For example
  • Similarly
  • In other words
  • As a consequence
  • Although

These can start a paragraph or a new sentence, and should be used when you are going from one point to another.

robot.pngDoes your essay seem choppy, and when you read it out loud you kind of sound like a robot? If so you may need to add TRANSITIONS.

A trick you can use to help make your writing smoother would be to summarize each paragraph into one word or a phrase, and make sure that it relates to the analysis as a whole.

Here are some more examples of properly used transitions:

  • James is not feeling well. Therefore, he will not be here today.
  • He was late to class again. In other words, he didn’t wake up on time.
  • Math was hard for me in high school. Likewise, it is hard in college.
  • Although the book is difficult to read, it is very interesting.

See, no robot sounds like this.

Source: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/transitions/