Colons, semicolons and em-dashes are lovely little mindfucks whose seemingly soul purpose is to royally confuse those of us who've stay up well past our bedtimes in order to indulge our ideas of new plot twists, dialogues or to capitalize on a relief from writer's block. As much as we writers would like to dismiss these curvaceous dots and scintillating dashes, they do in fact serve a purpose and a function. Undoubtedly, understanding these purposes and functions will take your writing to a whole new level.
Out of the three killjoys, semicolons are probably the easiest one to defeat. Semicolons; are they a colon or an overexuberant comma? I don't think they even know.
Use a semicolon as follows:
- To separate two independent clauses. A semicolon is used when you want your audience to briefly pause and then read an entirely different independent but related clause. Just think of a semicolon as a conjunction's evil twin.
If a conjunction would have been used: I really liked Johnny but his lack of personal hygiene unfortunately made him difficult to be around.
- Use a semicolon to separate items in a list that utilize other forms of punctuation.
The second horsemen of the Apocolypse are em-dashes--punctuation that features two hyphens for the price of one.
- Used to interrupt, but not offset a phrase.
- Two em-dashes, one on each side of a phrase, are used essentially in the place of a parentheses for information that you want to include but is completely unnecessary.
Colons are the most brutal warrior of them all and never cease to foil me.
- Use a colon to introduce a list of items
- Use a colon to introduce a definition
Now that you have the information necessary to defeat these evil bastards, get to writing.