A lot of people are intimidated by semicolons and don't know how to use them. Once you know how to use them, they really aren't that difficult.
Semicolons are used to link two independent clauses that are closely related. If you don't remember from elementary school, independent clauses are clauses that can stand on their own. So basically, a semicolon is used in place of a period. Here's an example:
I can't go out tonight; I have a big test tomorrow.
The sentence also makes sense with a period instead.
I can't go out tonight. I have a big test tomorrow.
One thing that is not correct is using a semicolon followed by a conjunction. Choose one or the other.
I can't go out tonight; because I have a big test tomorrow.
When figuring out if you are using a semicolon correctly, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Can the two sentences stand on their own?
- Are the two sentences related somehow?
If the answer to both is yes, congratulations you just figured out how to use a semicolon!
For a funnier explanation, check out The Oatmeal's comic.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I am always open to suggestions for further blog posts.