are semicolons archaic?

annjuks

Member
Latvian
Hello,

I came across grammarly.blog, which states that '
Semicolons are a little archaic and are not necessary in modern writing. Even in formal writing, they may be replaced by a comma or a period.'
Should I avoid using a semicolon in formal writing? Do you use a semicolon in your writing?



 
Last edited:
  • lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    Just first of all, semicolons only rarely can be replaced by commas, so don't get confused by that.

    In formal writing, semicolons are very helpful, particularly in argumentative or analytical writing. Most "formal" editors I know are big fans of the semicolon. In everyday writing, semicolons can in fact be a little precious; however, they're still functional. I use semicolons very, very often - I use a lot of commas, so semicolons help, and I also write very long sentences. (So don't take style advice from me...)

    To call semicolons "not necessary" is a huge overstatement. That being said, they are less common today than they were in the past. You should use semicolons whenever you want to.
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree. I wouldn't hesitate to use a semicolon. If you've got a list of long items, they can/should be separated by semicolons. Then if one of these items itself contains smaller items, these smaller items can be separated by commas. The trouble is that not everyone can be bothered to find out how semicolons work.
    Semicolons can express a contrast. Manchester United did not defeat Norwich; they utterly destroyed them is different from Manchester United did not defeat Norwich. They utterly destroyed them. The difference between defeat and destruction is brought out better in the first sentence.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    It would be a courtesy to the Grammarly site owner -- and to WordReference members -- if the sentences you quoted weren't taken out of context:

    Source
    A semicolon is a punctuation mark used to connect two thoughts or ideas which are somehow similar. Generally, each thought or idea could be used as its own sentence, but the flow of the work may be interrupted by the short, choppy sentences.

    Semicolons are a little archaic and are not necessary in modern writing. Even in formal writing, they may be replaced by a comma or a period. However, if they are used properly, semicolons can add a pleasing continuity to your work.

    This statement is followed by four linked pages regarding the use of semicolons.
     

    annjuks

    Member
    Latvian
    I agree with you - I should have quoted the full text, and I apologize for that. However, I can apply this to anything - it is a bad style to overuse or use in a wrong place any punctuation mark, but to say that it is not necessary in modern writing, I wouldn't say so.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    It is a bad style to overuse or use in a wrong place any punctuation mark, but to say that it is not necessary in modern writing, I wouldn't say so.
    I wouldn't either, and the anonymous author of "grammarly.blog" was wrong to term the semicolon even a little "archaic". I agree with Ewie and Sound Shift (posts #3 and #5).
     
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