Last time, I proclaimed my love of semicolons to the high heavens! This week we’ll be taking our semicolon usage to the next level and talking about another handy function of the much-loved punctuation mark: separating items in a list.
Typically, when listing items in a list, you separate them with commas. For instance:
“I went to the store and bought apples, pears, and grapefruits.”
But sometimes your list isn’t quite that simple. You might have tasks to list that require more explanation, or need to list cities and states for an upcoming conference that would get muddled by simple comma use. Basically, if there are commas in your lists, you should opt to separate those list items with a semicolon.
“I am visiting California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and Kentucky.” outlines a much different trip than if I were taking a trip to “…visit[ing] California, Pennsylvania; Florida, Ohio; and Kentucky.” Believe it or not there is a California, PA and it’s about an hour from my house. Using a semicolon here keeps the city/state designation together and helps to prevent confusion.
See? Super awesome punctuation mark!
A play on the misquoted phrase “for all intents and purposes”, Intensive Purposes tackles one grammar rule or English language tip — from proper punctuation to misused phrases — in an easy-to-understand mini-lesson.