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Grammar on Big Bang Theory: Had will have placed; Had have had brought + semi-colons

March 25, 2015

Am I a member of the Grammar Police? As a college writing teacher, it falls on me to aid students in hearing how punctuation and grammar provides the musical notes that help us make sense of and hear the song in someone’s writing.

In the student academic papers that I read, the most misunderstood–and the most useful– of all punctuation forms is the semi-colon.

images-3That’s right, the semi-colon.
A semi-colon, I point out,
has a period on top of a comma.

The period shows us that the first part of the sentence is a complete idea –and it could function correctly with a period at the end.

The comma shows the reader that the two ideas are connected– the writer wants you to just take a minor pause to take in the ideas of the first part before moving on to the second part.


Often my students simply show the link between the two complete ideas–the comma. A comma between two complete sentences or ideas is called a comma splice –like in film when two pieces of film are spliced together to make it flow as one.

A comma splice makes it a simple fix–just add the period on top to turn it into a semi-colon and help people understand both the meaning, the musicality, and the connections between the parts of the sentence.

Why are semi-colons so valuable in academic writing?


They help writers organize complex ideas by showing the linkages, and they make it easier for readers to follow those ideas. Plus they help the paper flow better.


Incorrect semi-colon use used to be worse, but according to my students, this Oatmeal cartoon has helped them understand what a semi-colon is, what it does, and how to use it, so here is the link. images-4



3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2015 12:42 pm

    Reblogged this on whisper down the write alley and commented:

    are you confused by the semi-colon? this blog post will help you get it straight!

  2. Suzy permalink
    March 26, 2015 4:16 am

    I was the “style nazi” at one of the newspapers I worked for. I love this post and the way you described a semicolon as a period on top of a comma. I had never heard it explained the way you laid it out. Also, totally sharing the Oatmeal post on my blog. This starts my day out right; I thank you!

  3. March 26, 2015 8:32 am

    Thanks Suzy! I have never heard anyone else describe a semi-colon that way either–it’s something I am pretty sure I came up with many years ago (15?)

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