semicolon

semicolon

[sem-i-koh-luhn]
semicolon: see punctuation.
A semicolon (  ;  ) is a conventional punctuation mark with several usages. The Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder established the practice of using the semicolon mark to separate words of opposed meaning, and to indicate interdependent statements. The earliest, general use of the semicolon in English was in 1591; Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use them systematically. The modern uses of the semicolon are discussed below, and relate either to the listing of items, or to the linking of related clauses.

English usage

The uses of the semicolon in English are fourfold:

  1. Use a semicolon between closely-related independent clauses not conjoined with a co-ordinating conjunction: "I went to the swimming pool; I was told it was closed for scheduled maintenance."
  2. Use a semicolon between independent clauses linked with a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb: "I like to eat cows; however, they don't like to be eaten by me."
  3. Use a semicolon between items in a series containing internal punctuation: "There are several Waffle Houses in Atlanta, Georgia; Greenville, South Carolina; Gainesville, Florida; and Mobile, Alabama."
  4. A semicolon can be used to separate independent clauses conjoined with coordinating conjunctions, when the clauses have internal commas that might be misread: "After the game, I won a red and blue pinwheel, four hundred thousand edible ingots, and a certificate of excellence; but when the storm came, I lost it all in a torrent of sleet, snow, and profanity."

Semicolons are followed by a lower case letter, unless that letter begins a proper noun. In documents, semicolons have no spaces before, but one or two spaces after.

Examples

  1. I am not alone; my wife came back to me.
  2. Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? No says the man in Washington; it belongs to the poor. No says the man in The Vatican; it belongs to God. No says the man in Moscow; it belongs to everyone.
  3. I traveled to Cambridge, England; Tijuana, Mexico; and Paris, France.
  4. Braden scored 70 points; Marcia, 60; and Sam, 40.

(In the third example, and the second semicolon in the third sentence, the semicolons function as serial commas.)

Other languages

Arabic

Semicolon in Arabic is called Fasla Manqouta (Arabic:فاصلة منقوطة) which means literally: a dotted comma. In Arabic, the semicolon has several uses:

  • It could be used between two phrases, in which the first phrase causes the second.

Example:
*He played much; so, his clothes became dirty. (Arabic لقد لعب كثيراً; فاتسخت ملابسه.)

  • It could be used in two phrases, where the second is a reason in the first.

Example:
*Your sister didn't get high marks; because she didn't study sincerely.
(Arabic لم تحقق أختك درجات عالية; لأنها لم تتأنَ في دراستها.)

The semicolon has more uses in the Arabic language. Nevertheless, it is not widely used.

Greek and Church Slavonic

In Greek and Church Slavonic, a semicolon indicates a question, similar to a Latin question mark. To indicate a long pause or separate sections, each with commas (the semicolon's purpose in English), Greek uses an interpunct ( · ) and an ano teleia ( · ).

Example:

Με συγχωρείτε· πού είναι οι τουαλέτες; (Excuse me; where are the toilets?)

Computing usage

In computer programming, the semicolon is often used to separate multiple statements (for example, Pascal, SQL and Perl). In other languages, semicolons are required after every statement (such as in PHP, Java, ActionScript (optional in ActionScript 3), Lingo Script and the C family). Other languages (for instance, some assembly languages and LISP dialects) use semicolons to mark the beginning of comments. In computer systems, the semicolon is represented by Unicode and ASCII character 59 or 0x3B. The EBCDIC semicolon character is 94 or 0x5E.

The semicolon is often used to separate elements of a string of text. For example, multiple e-mail addresses in the "To" field in some e-mail clients have to be delimited by a semicolon.

In Microsoft Excel, the semicolon is used as a list separator, especially in cases where the decimal separator is a comma.

Example:

  • 0,32; 3,14; 4,50 (instead of 0.32, 3.14, 4.50)
  • In c++ --> int x; x=1; cout << x << endl;

Mathematics

In the argument list of a mathematical function f(x_1, x_2, dots; a_1, a_2, dots), a semicolon may be used to separate variables and parameters.

In differential geometry, a semicolon preceding an index is used to indicate the covariant derivative of a function with respect to the coordinate associated with that index.

References

  • Hacker, Diana (2002). The Bedford Handbook (6th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's ISBN 0-312-41281-9.

External links

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