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English: please help with ";" and "--"

First off, I am an English speaker. Have been so my whole life. I admittedly have no idea how to properly use ";" and "--" in a sentence, nor do I know why they would be required. Everyone else I ask just shrugs because they don't know either. Honestly, I feel like if you give it 20 years people are not even going to remember they can be used or that they even exist, but until then I'd like to know when and why.

I think this will help my grammar improve. That's the overall goal!

I need examples people! In order to respond you must list one example of a sentence that uses both!
Can't help you with the '--' fella, but a semicolon is used as follows:
The semicolon ; has only one major use. It is used to join two complete sentences into a single written sentence when all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The two sentences are felt to be too closely related to be separated by a full stop;
(2) There is no connecting word which would require a comma, such as and or but;
(3) The special conditions requiring a colon are absent.

Here is a famous example:

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

My knowledge of the correct use of hyphens and dashes is incomplete; my understanding of the correct use of semicolons is enough to allow myself to be understood.
Am I the cause of this confusion by any chance? ... I do tend to use those a lot around here.

The ; has already been explained, though I'll add that if you want to use it, you can put it there pretty much any time that you would use ", and" when joining two sentences.

As for the "--"
The double hyphen is used as a shortcut way to type a dash (because there's no key for a dash).
As for how dashes are used, there are two varieties, and this explains them:

An en dash, roughly the width of an n, is a little longer than a hyphen. It is used for periods of time when you might otherwise use 'to'.
Examples: The years 2001–2003
An en dash is also used in place of a hyphen when combining open compounds.
Examples: North Carolina–Virginia border
a high school–college conference


An em dash is the width of an m. Use an em dash sparingly in formal writing. In informal writing, em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.
Examples: You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me.
Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.
I pay the bills—she has all the fun.
A semicolon would be used here in formal writing.
I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.
Remember, a colon would be used here in formal writing.
My agreement with Fiona is clear—she teaches me French and I teach her German.
Again, a colon would work here in formal writing.
Please call my agent—Jessica Cohen—about hiring me.
Parentheses or commas would work just fine here instead of the dashes.
I wish you would—oh, never mind.
This shows an abrupt change in thought and warrants an em dash.
This is amazing -- or maybe not! Smile

Semicolon.... ", and" ... let's try this. John walked up the hill; Jane walked down. Does that work?

We can stay up late and tell stories; in the morning I'm making waffles! Does that work? lol
IceCreamTruck wrote:
This is amazing -- or maybe not! Smile

Semicolon.... ", and" ... let's try this. John walked up the hill; Jane walked down. Does that work?

We can stay up late and tell stories; in the morning I'm making waffles! Does that work? lol

Yep, those are all acceptable.
ocalhoun wrote:

Yep, those are all acceptable.

There may be hope for me yet. Honestly, because of this thread I have been using semi colons and "--" all over the place! Just kidding, but I have been using them much more effectively. I have found new pleasure in the semicolon being a great way to end sentences like this "clause, clause, and clause; clause". Simply put it further avoids the need for a ", and ... , and" that every English teacher wants everyone to avoid but keeps coming up for me cause my brain likes to set up those kinds of sentences; it's easier to comply than avoid in this case.

Your explanation worked well for my brain, because I honestly don't understand what confused that subject for me for so long. I guess practice makes perfect, so I continue to use them and probably will use them more and more!

Frihost rules! Thanks again for your help

PS. Plants have souls? Is this new? or really just a cleaver attempt to tease the vegetarians? Smile
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