Use a Semicolon to Join Two Closely Related Sentences

Use a Semicolon to Join Two Closely Related Independent Clauses

Note: An independent clause is a clause that can be correctly punctuated as a sentence.

Two closely related independent clauses may be joined with a semicolon.

Ex: The Yankees are in first place; the Mets are in last place.

Two independent clauses may be joined with a semicolon, a connecting word or phrase such as however, moreover, or as a result, and a comma.

Ex: The Yankees are in first place; however, the Mets are in last place.

Great art is frequently earthy. One of the most famous scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander shows the character Uncle Carl amusing children with his virtuoso farting; his talents include being able to blow out a candle with his wind. Was the actor who played Uncle Carl really farting? Unfortunately, no. Bertil Guve, who played the boy Alexander, explains, “They had a person sitting right next to the candle with a tube.” Watch the scene carefully. When the candle is blown out, the wind does not come from Uncle Carl’s backside.

In 1994, when she was acting in John Waters’ Serial Mom, Kathleen Turner discovered that she had rheumatoid arthritis. She exercised regularly, as the doctor ordered, and she had surgery as necessary; however, for long periods of time she was unable to wear anything but slippers, although she loves shoes. In an interview with Rachel Cooke that was published in March of 2008, Ms. Turner said that she was very pleased that she had been able to wear shoes for two weeks. She had gone into a shoe store, tried a pair on, and cried, “I can wear these!” The shoe-store employee assisting her said, “Of course you can, dear.” Ms. Turner admits, “I scared the h*ll out of him.”

Al Jolson was a huge entertainer in vaudeville, but his career declined. Eventually it was resurrected when the 1946 movie The Jolson Story, which starred Bert Parks and won an Oscar for Best Score, came out. How forgotten was Mr. Jolson? He watched the movie in a theater, feeling very proud. At the end of the movie, which was a huge hit, people cheered, and Mr. Jolson overheard a woman say, “It’s too bad Jolson couldn’t be alive to see this.” When Mr. Jolson was big in show biz, he was huge. He often starred in musicals on Broadway, and when he felt like it, 20 minutes into the musical, he would tell the other members of the cast, “Go home.” Then he would sing and entertain solo for two hours. The audience never complained; after all, they had not come to see and hear the musical—they had come to see and hear Mr. Jolson.

Landon Ronald was a conductor in England who occasionally worked with Thomas Beecham; however, eventually Mr. Ronald seemed to disappear from the music scene. Mr. Beecham shared the same doctor as Mr. Ronald, so he took occasion to ask the doctor if anything serious had happened to him. The doctor replied, “Not at all. It is only a case of wine, women, and song, and I have told him that he must make up his mind to drop one of them.” The next time Mr. Beecham saw Mr. Ronald, he asked him which of the three he had decided to drop. Mr. Ronald replied, “Song.”

Donna Delfino Dugay of Harper Woods, Michigan, grew up in California, where her family had a picnic at the beach when she was 11 years old. Her mother fixed each of the children a plate of fried chicken and potato salad, and then, Donna says, “When I looked up from my plate, my mother was fixing one more plate …. She turned away from us and walked over maybe 20 or 30 feet to where there was a man by himself. And he was picking his way through the trashcan. And my mother—I don’t know whether she just put the plate there or whether she touched him gently or whether she said a few words—but I remember him turning to her in a gesture of thankfulness.” Years later, when Donna asked her mother about this good deed, her mother claimed not to remember it; however, Donna says, “But for me, I remember it very well because for me, it was the touchstone for what good deeds became in my life.”

Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali, was a poor student and graduated from high school with a D- average near the bottom of his class. (He later claimed, “I only said I was the greatest; I never said I was the smartest.”) Some teachers didn’t think he should be allowed to graduate, but the principal, Atwood Wilson, felt differently and argued that Cassius would be a success in life: “Why, in one night, he’ll make more money than the principal and all you teachers make in one year. If every teacher here fails him, he’s still not going to fail.” When Cassius’ name was announced at the commencement ceremony, his fellow students gave him a standing ovation.

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