The semicolon is the only punctuation mark that has been honoured with its own official day, February 6. Perhaps a result of the fact that the semicolon often evokes a lot of emotions or, to some, is unclear how to use. Gunilla Byrman, professor of Swedish, comments on the emotionally-charged semicolon.
It was constructed by the typographer and designer Aldus Manutius in 1494. Today, many abstain from using the semicolon at all, but professor Gunilla Byrman likes using it, and does so quite often. The semicolon is a punctuation mark that consists of a full stop and a comma, and that is exactly how it is supposed to be used. In cases where it is possible to use a full stop, but one chooses to continue the sentence, between two principal clauses.
"The semicolon is something in between, and can be used when a full stop feels too strong and a comma to weak", Byrman explains.
Here is an example: The principal clauses that are separated by a semicolon deal with the same subject; the content of the two clauses have a close relationship.
The other way to use a semicolon is when listing something. When listing something you can use semicolons if you want separate groups from each other or separate listed decimal figures. However, semicolon should not be used before a listing of something – then colon should be used instead.
Here comes Gunilla Byrman's second example of how to use the semicolon:
There were many guests at the degree ceremony: family, relatives and friends; course mates and other contacts from the student years; current and earlier neighbours.
It is fully possible to get by without using the semicolon; one can just ignore it in all types of texts if one wishes to. Perhaps it may even disappear in the future?
"No, I don't think that it will go away. The fact that it's not being used more widely by people in general is probably due to the fact that people are afraid they might use it in the wrong way", Byrman concludes.
Gunilla Byrman, +46470-70 84 14
Tove Nordén, communications officer, +4670-367 14 53