Carried Away with Semicolons!

pill dropperA huge advertisement promoting drops instead of pills for health problems offers several excellent examples of when NOT to use semicolons. The purpose of a semicolon is to link two independent clauses (statements that are related but can stand alone). It should replace a period or ", and" but NOT be used as it is in the following sentences:

Whoops #1: "Why, with all the medications we take to improve our health; are people still getting sicker?"

The semicolon above should be a comma. The basic statement is: WHY ARE PEOPLE STILL GETTING SICKER? The words WITH…HEALTH make up an introductory phrase, not a separate clause. I would also stick with WE instead of switching to PEOPLE. It should read this way:

SOLUTION: Why, with all the medications we take to improve our health, are we still getting sicker?

Here is the second semicolon error, which seems to involve confusing the semicolon with a colon:

Whoops #2: The problem is; there's no escape!

SOLUTION: Leave out the inner punctuation completely. It should read this way:

The problem is that there's no escape.

The third semicolon error tries to set off a prepositional phrase that should be part of the main clause:

Whoops #3: It's the first and only product to eliminate life-sapping toxins; from virtually every organ in your body….

SOLUTION: Simply remove the semicolon.

It's the first and only product to eliminate life-sapping toxins from virtually every organ in your body….

The fourth semicolon error tries to use both the semicolon and AND. This is not necessary.

Whoops #4: Just add 5 drops of …… to any beverage, twice a day; and you'll see rapid improvements to your health almost immediately.

SOLUTION: Change the colon to a comma and use it with AND.

Just add 5 drops of …… to any beverage, twice a day, and you'll see rapid improvements to your health almost immediately. 

The fifth and final semicolon error in this one advertisement should also be a comma so that the cause/effect relationship of the two clauses is clear:

Whoops #5: We've made special arrangements with the distributor to supply our readers with a totally Risk-FREE sample of ……; so you can see for yourself, without risking a penny.

SOLUTION: Remove the semicolon before SO, remove the second comma, and change YOU and YOURSELF to THEY and THEMSELVES to keep the pronouns consistent.

We've made special arrangements with the distributor to supply our readers with a totally Risk-FREE sample of …… so they can see for themselves without risking a penny.

Whew! That is a rather large number of errors for one advertisement–and I didn't even quote the two errors that had nothing to do with semicolons!

I hope these examples will be good reminders about semicolon usage. If you have other examples to share or questions to ask, please put them in a comment, and I will respond.


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