The Lonely Island Explains Semicolon Usage

Mind Your Language exists to offer narky advice on accurate language usage, but we're more than happy to let others do the work. This new song from legendary comedy musicians The Lonely Island (featuring Solange) offers a reminder in humorous form on the correct use of the semicolon.

Office warning: while it's a lyric video, the odd swear word pops up. Pedantry warning: Solange repeatedly pronounces 'semi' as sem-MY, which isn't correct usage in Australia.

Here's a quick reminder of when you should use a semicolon (;) rather than a colon (:). A colon is used to separate off the main part of a sentence, or to precede a list. A semicolon is used to link together closely-related ideas. If you're not sure, try using shorter sentences and avoiding them altogether. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


    Thats terrible and so american it hurts. The rest of the world say Semi (Sem-eee) not Sem-iiiii)
    Its like a grade school 'don't forget to brush your teeth' thing .

      Ah but then Aussies say Data (Dah-ta) just like the Americans instead of how the rest of the world says Data (Day-ta).

      Swings and roundaboots

        I will pronounce Data as Star Trek TNG mandated it should be pronounced for all time.

      Your whingy-ness is so Australian it....well....seems about right. I'm American and it sounds to me like they're saying Sem-ee (like I do). Second, any dictionary will tell you that either pronunciation is acceptable: [sem-ee, sem-ahy].

      It definitely teaches you stuff though; semicolon.


      Last edited 24/05/13 11:54 am

    And both nations typically say "this data", "that data" etc. It should be "these" or "those" as data is plural; datum is the singular.

    (just when you thought there was ample pedantry on this page ;)

    This isn't how you use a semicolon! They should only be used to separate complicated items in a list or series:

    Several fast food restaurants can be found within the cities: London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; and Madrid, Spain.

    Or to establish a close relationship between two clauses that might also be written with a fullstop in between them:

    I told Kate she's running for the hills; I wonder if she knew I was joking.

    Single words cannot be written as self-contained clauses.

    Last edited 24/05/13 10:06 am

      Ending of the song actually addresses the improper use. Haha. ;)

        Oh man, the pedant in me quit long before the end... Well played!

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