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Contexts for Colon & Semicolon Use

As mentioned in the lesson on colon use between independent clauses, a colon can be used to great effect when a writer wants to illustrate or elaborate on an idea.  The colon can even set up a kind of mini-essay within your essay if after the first clause, you connect several illustrations together with semicolons.  Try out this technique in the text boxes below.  A starting sentence is provided for you.  All you need to do is add sentences that illustrate or elaborate on that idea.  In at least one of the exercises, try to connect several illustrations with semicolons.  When you complete your sentence, check out our version of the sentence.

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Semicolons in Context

A semicolon is a useful tool for connecting two closely related ideas. It is also useful for creating balanced and smooth-flowing sentences since good balance comes from the repetition of similar structures or ideas. Consider the following balanced sentence:

“What we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack’d and lost,
Why, then we rack the value.”
(Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, iv. 1.)

As for man his days are as grass; as a flower of the field so he flourisheth.
(Old Testament, Psalm 103:15)

Twins amount to a permanent riot; and there ain't any real difference between triplets and a insurrection.
(The Babies Speech, Mark Twain)

Now give this technique a try yourself.  As in the colon exercise above, a starter sentence is provided for you.  See if you can think of a sentence to place on the other side of the semicolon that is closely related to the idea before the semicolon.  Remember, to create balance, repeat structures and ideas. When you complete your sentence, check out our version of the sentence.

See our version

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