Nothing in Common: Practice with colons and semicolons

Sometimes it takes longer than expected to reach our goals, but with persistence we can make it to the finish line. That’s what I’m telling myself as I work to complete the English Writing Skills series on YouTube. I’m on Lesson 8, the last lesson before the final review. Learners have requested a video on colons and semicolons, and I’m eager to offer them one. What advice shall I pass along? How frequently do you use these punctuation marks in your own writing?

I plan to show how the semicolon can join independent clauses together with or without a conjunctive adverb. However (There’s one!), I want to emphasize that writers shouldn’t overuse this punctuation mark. Just as I shouldn’t use only one kick over and over again when I spar in taekwondo, a writer shouldn’t see the necessity to show relationships between clauses with a dozen semicolons in a one-page text. Often two separate sentences or a compound sentence with a coordinating conjunction can get the job done just fine.

As for colons, I think a very common use in every day writing is introducing lists. I’ll also take the time in my video lesson to show the occasional necessity to use semicolons and colons together in a series of items. Should you wish to make use of a quick interactive exercise to review patterns with these two punctuation marks, please click here.

Finally, for classroom practice, I offer my  Nothing in Common_handout, which helps students transition from writing with sentence prompts to writing free form.

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