The Only Grammar Handbook You Hope You'll Never Need: Article 1

October 9, 2010
By Weatherby SILVER, Newtown, Pennsylvania
Weatherby SILVER, Newtown, Pennsylvania
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
~ The Declaration of Independence

Article 1: Semicolons vs. Colons… Not to Mention Apostrophes
Semicolons and colons are two very pesky grammatical pests that even we at The Center for Desperate Middle Schoolers can’t even fully comprehend. But we have exceeded the limits to prepare a full-scale barrage on these two components of the grammar world, and we have managed to salvage quite a bit of information.
First off, we shall begin with colons. Colons have several uses, the most commonly known being that of starting a list.
Check it out:
“The court ruling found the defendant guilty of the following: murder in the third degree, robbery in the first, and breaking and entering in the second.” But beware: the clause before the colon must be a complete sentence.
This is just one use of many. Instead of a semicolon, you can use a colon if the second sentence compliments the first.
Check it out:
“I have excelled in school: I attribute this to the many late nights I spent at my small desk piled high with a wide variety of papers.”
According to a website based off The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation,, states that one can “use the colon to introduce a direct quotation that is more than three lines in length.”
Check it out:
Although I had taken in large amounts of caffeine in the morning, I remembered very little from the lecture given by Mr. Galvez:

The French Revolution was inspired by the previous revolution in America which had created a new sovereign power. Support was split down the middle in the states, some were enthusiastically the overthrow of power, others were highly skeptical and leaning toward the Britain, and some still standing on a strict course of impartiality.

Although the revolution ended with Napoleon’s arrival and self-declaration of emperor, it shows how one act of rebellion could spark many more widespread.

Although we discussed the usage of commas in salutations in letters, commas are also appropriate. Interestingly enough, colons are used for business letters and commas for private communication.

Now we proceed to semicolons. The root semi-, a prefix, means half, and if you take a close look at the semicolon, it’s pretty much a half of a colon: ‘;.’ But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it has half the duties of a colon; much to the contrary.

First off, you can have a semicolon instead of a period where there is a missing conjunction between two independent clauses.
Check it out:
“The election results were out; candidates were either rejoicing or returning to their lives before the wild campaign journey.” In this case, the missing conjunction can be several; ‘so,’ & ‘and.’

Semicolons are also used similarly to commas and colons. Introductory words such i.e., however, namely, therefore, etc. usually have a semicolon before them when they begin a complete sentence. In addition, you ought to put a comma after the introductory word.
In other terms: Opener + semicolon + introductory word + comma.
Check it out:
“Everest was required to wear a flea collar for two weeks; however, he felt embarrassed in front of the neighbor’s dogs, so he asked his best buddy to help him chew it off.”
You can combine commas and semicolons to create a sentence clear of confusion. Let’s say you have something likes capitols with states in a list: those have commas. IF you put a comma after every element of the sentence, it will be highly confusing: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Richmond, Virginia. No. Use semicolons.
Check it out:
“Candidate Maxwell Reilly visited five capitols: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Albany, New York; Madison, Wisconsin; Sacramento, California; and Phoenix, Arizona.” As we learned in the dates and addresses section, there is always a comma after the town, regardless of the format. Here, these are the capitols, and to put commas after the states would suggest that the state is an entirely different unit from its capitol.

Pursuant to the rules on, semicolons can be used “between two sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction when one or more commas appear in the first sentence.
Article 1.5: Apostrophes
From ‘’s’ to ‘s,’’ apostrophes can drive an English student to their last wits. But what could we do without them? They show possession and take the place of a letter. A word where a letter has been omitted is called a contraction.
Check it out:
“William’s land tract.” In this case, the apostrophe is showing that land tract belongs to William. Otherwise it would appear as though William and the land were one thing. Since it belongs to one person, the apostrophe goes before the s.
Rules of Possession as According to
Singular possession: before the s.
For plural possession, change the noun to plural form, then insert an apostrophe after the s, which will therefore imply possession.
“Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.”
Should you encounter an word with several units, or in other terms, a compound noun, use the singular possessive rule by putting an apostrophe and an s after the last word in the compound. If it’s plural, modify the word to sound plural [aunts will be aunts, and you even add number: my three aunts-in-law] and add the singular possessive apostrophe.
If two persons are connected to a single object (house, car, pet, etc.), use the singular apostrophe rule only after the second name.
But beware of the following rules:
There are several pronouns that show possession, but don’t need an apostrophe in doing so: its, theirs, whose, hers, his, theirs, ours, yours, etc.
If you have a plural name, be sure not to confuse yourself and put an apostrophe there if it is not implying possession.
“Can’t.” Here several letters have been omitted.

The author's comments:
The following is the first installation of The Only Grammar Handbook You Hope You'll Never Need. The entire project consists of several "articles" teaching various principles of grammar in an engaging and interesting fashion.

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