I polled a number of people recently* about their fears, and the top two could be summed up in the following way: “Justin Bieber and semicolons.” While I can’t do anything about the Bieber situation, I might be able to help with semicolons. The most common purpose of a semicolon is to connect two independent clauses. Look at this example:
- I fear Justin Bieber; his youthful exuberance reminds me of how close we are to death.
I could have separated those two clauses with either a period or a conjunction (such as “because”), but I wanted to indicate a more subtle connection between my fear of the Bieber and my existential angst. Semicolons can often keep us away from committing the deadly sin of the comma splice. More about that in another post, provisionally titled, “Comma Splices and the movie Splice.”
*The number being zero.