Monday, November 12, 2012

Many times students are confused about when to use a semi-colon instead of a comma and vice versa. John Hopkins University provides clear and basic rules for comma and semicolon use. 

Basic Rules for Using Commas and Semi-Colons

Comma Rules:

1. Use a comma before the conjunction (and, for, but, or, nor, so) that joins the two independent clauses in a compound sentence.

Examples: I like working outside, and I also enjoy reading.

                 He got out of school early, so he took a nap.

2. Use a comma after relatively lengthy introductory phrases or dependent (subordinate) clauses. It is important to note that a comma should not be used when the clause or phrase comes at the end of the sentence as illustrated by the third example.

Examples:  In order to be successful, one must learn to write well.

                  After she learned the rules for using commas, her grades improved.
                  Her grades improved after she learned to use commas correctly.
3. Use commas to separate items in a series. Be sure to insert a comma before the conjunction that precedes the last item unless your teacher or style manual specifically tells you to exclude them.
Example: Amy ordered two hamburgers, a Coke, and a large order of fries.
4. Use commas before and after non-essential elements (parts of the sentence providing information that is not essential in order to understand its meaning).
Example: Horace Mann Elementary, which is the smallest school in the district, enrolls only 160 students.
5. Use commas between coordinate adjectives (of equal importance) that modify the same noun. Do not separate adjectives of unequal importance. A good way to determine if the adjectives are of equal importance is to reverse them in the sentence. If the sentence does not read well after the reversal, do not use a comma between them. The second example below clearly illustrates this point. Reversing the adjectives (blue big eyes or red bright hair) simply doesn't work!
Examples: By the end of the game, the field was a slippery, wet mess.
                 Her big blue eyes and bright red hair made her strikingly beautiful. 
6. Use commas to separate the elements of dates and places.
Examples: The date was June 12, 1999.
                 He was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
7. Use a comma before a direct quotation. Also, as shown in the example, commas (and periods as well) go inside the quotation marks.
Example: When asked if he had studied for the test, Paul replied, "Only a little," and his grade showed it!
8. Use commas before and after words and phrases like however and never the less that serve as interrupters.
Example: Adam did not like math.  He was, however, very successful in his math classes.
Semi-Colon Rules:
1. Use a semi-colon in place of the comma and conjunction to separate the two independent clauses in a compound sentence.
Example: I like working outside; I also enjoy reading.
2. Use a semi-colon before the conjunctive adverb (such as however and therefore) that joins two independent clauses. Be sure to put a comma after the conjunctive adverb.
Example: I like working outside; however, I also enjoy reading.
3. Use semi-colons to separate elements in a series if they contain internal punctuation.
Example: On his fishing trip, Jeff caught rainbow, brook, and lake trout; large-mouth, small mouth, and white bass; and a few northern pike.

YouTube Clip on Semicolon Use: Provided by TMAU Writing Center

Practice Worksheet Ideas!!

Name: ________________

Semicolon or Comma? 
Directions: determine whether the clauses need to be joined with commas or semicolons. Put the
proper punctuation on the blank. 1. The artist preferred to paint in oils ____ he did not like water colors. 2. Even when the house looks clean ____ there is usually a bunch of dirt swept under the rug. 3. I’m going to leave early today ____ unless the boss comes back from the meeting. 4. The computer can perform many calculations at once ____ however, it cannot reason at all. 5. In the first place, it was snowing too hard to see the road ____ in the second place, we had no chains. 6. Italy is my favorite foreign country ____ in fact, I plan on staying there for three weeks this summer. 7. The challenges are not impossible ___ but they are very hard to clear. 8. I’m going to do all of my English homework every night ____ because that’s how you get an “A”. 9. If he misses his appointment ____ he’ll have to wait another six months to see the dentist. 10. There are many negative side effects to smoking ___ there are no positive side effects from smoking.

Give it a shot: Write six ORIGINAL sentences that correctly use a semicolon. 





Or Try Something A Little More Different

Name: ______________________

Sentence Combining Directions: The following passage is interesting, but it is written almost entirely in simple sentences, which makes the writing boring and childish. Add sophistication to this writing by combining sentences. REWRITE the following passage. Try to appropriately combine the following sentences. You may add coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Use semicolons and commas.

The Hamilton-Burr duel
The guy on the US ten-dollar bill is Alexander Hamilton. He was killed in a duel by Vice President Aaron Burr. Hamilton was a revolutionary war hero. He was George Washington's right-hand man. He was the first US Secretary of the Treasury. He formulated an economic policy that got America on its feet.
Aaron Burr was a colonel in the Continental Army. He served with George Washington at Valley Forge. In the election of 1800, he was in a deadlock with Thomas Jefferson for the presidency. The election went to the House of Representatives to be decided. Jefferson became the president. Burr became vice president.
Hamilton had talked a lot of stuff about Aaron Burr before the election. Some thought it may have cost Hamilton the presidency. The hatred between the two men would continue until July 1804. Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton accepted.
The fateful day came on July 11, 1804. Vice President Aaron Burr and former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton faced off. Hamilton was mortally wounded. He was dragged from the duelling area. He died the next day. While the nation mourned, Burr returned to complete his term as vice president. His success in the duel proved to work toward his downfall. There was some talk of murder charges being brought against him. However, the rules of the duel were followed. No indictment was carried forward. He would later go on to be charged for treason. He attempted to establish his own empire in the South.
___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________

For other Grammar Worksheets Click on E Reading Worksheets!

Another Big Hit Is An Electronic Quiz! Click Here for Quia's Determining Use of Comma's and Semicolon's Quiz!!

Friendly PowerPoint Presentation Examples for Semicolon vs Comma Grammar Lesson