Curtis’ concern about the fading semicolon pleased me since he pointed out reasons for the gradual demise of this sophisticated punctuation mark. A few years ago I assumed it wasn’t being used because youngsters weren’t taught the rules for employing it; the resulting verse was thought to be a remedy.
I have explored old notes from pals to me
And quite often found the apostrophe.
Rereading love letters with their dramas
Frequently reveals the use of commas,
But after searching till eyes are swollen
I find friends don’t use the semicolon.
This elusive mark for noting pauses
Is used to separate two main clauses,
But to be sure just how it functions
Learn your coordinating conjunctions,
‘Cause when one of these is on the scene,
On a small semicolon it should lean.
And conjunctive adverbs are preceded
By semicolons, when both are needed
To tell if the second clause will support
The aim of the first or choose to purport
A thought which starts with the word ‘however’
And opts to change its course of endeavor.
Series of phrases may be divided,
Or a list of books one has provided,
Or enumerations of other kinds,
With a semicolon, when writer finds
The comma alone needs help dearly
To separate larger groups more clearly.
JOHN W. WAGGONER