Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Sep 3 2009   2:47PM GMT

Colons vs. semicolons

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Follow us on Twitter@tao_of_grammar

Which is correct?
The CEO cannot _____ he’s given so much slack that even his most dismal catastrophes are hailed as triumphs.
a. fail;
b. fail:

Answer: b.

Explanation: This is advanced punctuation, not for the faint of heart. The semicolon is not incorrect in that sentence but the colon is better. A semicolon would indicate that the two independent clauses were more closely connected than two separate sentences. The use of the colon indicates that the second independent clause explains the first part.

Here are some examples of colon and semicolon use taken from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

 Comment on this Post

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: