Punctuation: Semicolons & Conjunctivitis


Now we advance to the use of the semicolon that twists people around.  Even English majors spiral out of control with this one.  The conjunctive adverb!

First, a grammar lesson.

Conjunctions join items.  We have three types of conjunctions.

1] We have the basic ones, the coordinating FANBOYS and their fraternal twins the correlatives.  It’s smart to think of these two types in the same way.  We use them in the same way.

Most compound sentences require only a comma before the conjunction.  Remember these two sentences?

  • Jack carried the bucket up the hill, but he fell down the hill.
  • Jill ran, and she laughed happily.

These two sentences are Compound.  Each has a subject with its own verb.  In the first sentence, Jack carried but he fell.  In the second, Jill ran and she laughed.  Again, length does not determine designation.

The placement of the punctuation is alphabetical:  the comma comes before the conjunction.

Fanboys get that name from the mnemonic device that helps us remember them.

FANBOYS:  for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.  (The comma is only behind the conjunction because this is a list.  In actual practice, the comma comes before the conjunction;  it is attached to the previous word.)

Doubled-Up Correlatives

CORRELATIVES:  both/and, either/or, neither/nor, just as/so, not only/but also, and whether/or.

Independent becomes Dependent

2] Then we have the subordinating conjunctions.  Subordinating conjunctions turn independent sentences into dependent (or subordinate/secondary) ones.

Subordinating conjunctions belong to the realm of commas.  However, a brief list includes the following:

After / As / Although / Because / Since / If (which always comes with then), Who (and whoever, etc.) / While / Until

This list is not complete.  We have many subordinate conjunctions.

Conjunctivitis is Catching

3] The odd conjunctions are the Conjunctive Adverbs.  My mind always calls these Stop Conjunctions.  In speaking, no matter how rapidly, we stop before and after each of these words.

Read this sentence aloud: Einstein has many contributions to the field of science;  nevertheless, he is primarily known for this theory of relativity.

You paused twice, didn’t you, before and after nevertheless?  Even if we forced ourselves, our minds would still hear the pauses.

Here’s a chart of the most Conjunctive Adverbs that I could think of.  I am certain that I missed a few.
Accordingly Additionally Again Also Anyway
Besides Certainly Comparatively Consequently Conversely
Elsewhere Equally Finally Further Furthermore
Hence Henceforth However In addition In comparison
In contrast Incidentally Indeed Instead Likewise
Meanwhile Moreover Namely Nevertheless Next
Nonetheless Notably Now Otherwise Rather
Similarly Specifically Still Subsequently Then
Thereafter Therefore Thus Undoubtedly Yet

See how each word or phrase takes a whole breath to say?

The Conjunctive Adverb takes the place of the basic conjunction between the two joined sentences.  Then we place a semicolon BEFORE it and a comma AFTER, surrounding the ConjAdv.  The semicolon comes first, to stop the first sentence and link the second.  The following comma represents the verbal pause of our breath.

  • “Dirt used to be a badge of honor. Dirt used to look like work.  But we’ve scrubbed the dirt off the face of work;  consequently, we’ve created this suspicion of anything that’s too dirty.” ~ Mike Rowe
  • “I’m about a monolingual as you come; but nevertheless, I have a variety of different languages at my command, different styles, different ways of talking, which do involve different parameter settings.” ~ Noam Chomsky
  • “I am here for a purpose, and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand; henceforth, I will apply all my efforts to become the highest mountain of all, and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy.” ~ Og Mandino
Ticky Detail #4

In simple sentences, we can use these ConjAdvs like an interjection.

  • “If a man does not keep pace with his companion, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Note, the second sentence—the one which contains however—is not two sentences.  It is only one sentence.

This use, with the ConjAdv as a mere modifier, inserted like a parenthetical expression, trips up the good grammar people.  They use the interjecting word and fly past without difficulty.  Then they join two sentences with only a comma (as for the interjection) and crash into a Type I Error.

And it’s Type I Errors up next!  Those pesky subject/verb problems that trip up college composition students.