11.19 Don’t use quotation marks when introducing an
abbreviation in parentheses.
Forty years ago, people took great pains to introduce an abbreviation,
as in Bureau of Land Management (hereinafter referred to as “BLM”) or
International Business Machines Corporation (referred to henceforth as
“IBM”). You still see it this way from time to time, but usually in legal
writing. Let’s keep it confined there.
Today’s convention for introducing an abbreviation is much sim-
pler. We no longer write anything like hereinafter referred to as (since
readers know this without our help) and we no longer use quotation
marks around the abbreviation. What you see below is what the reader
needs—anything more would be excessive.
Department of Justice (DOJ)
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
improvised explosive device (IED)
President of the United States (POTUS)
12. Semicolon
Even the name of this thing is trouble. It should be called a “super-
comma” or a “semiperiod” because its practical effect is to bring things
to a near stop. But someone named it semicolon, and the name stuck,
and there’s not much we can do about it. In workplace writing, this
misunderstood mark may be used in five ways. I say “may be used”
and not “is used” or “should be used” because you often sacrifice clarity
when you drop a semicolon into a sentence.
12.1 A semicolon may be used to connect independent clauses
when there is no conjunction between them.
Generally speaking, the semicolon works best when the independent
clauses are (1) relatively short, (2) parallel in structure, and (3) do not
149
The Marks
deserve the status of separate sentences. That last issue is yours to de-
cide.
CXD employs 90,000 people; AFR employs 146,000.
Meriwether invented the device; Slovo received the patent.
Fannie Mae stock lost 8 percent last year; Freddie Mac stock gained 6
percent.
12.2 A semicolon may be used to connect two independent clauses
when the second independent clause is introduced by a
transitional phrase.
Note that a comma always follows the transitional word or phrase.
The new procedure will save time and money; more to the point, it will
increase safety.
A new CEO will be hired next year; in the interim, Smith will serve as chief
executive.
The chain of custody was tainted; as a result, the judge threw out the
evidence.
Be aware of the limited usefulness of this construction.
Here the semicolon has exactly the same meaning as “, and.” The examples
above are correct, but they do not tell the reader anything about how the
thoughts relate. Don’t settle for being correct. If you mean Meriwether in-
vented the device, but
Slovo received the patent, then say that. If you mean
Even though
Fannie Mae stock lost 8 percent last year, Freddie Mac stock
gained 6 percent, then say that. Make your meaning plain with words.
Punctuation at Work
150
12.3 A semicolon may be used to connect two independent clauses
when the second independent clause is introduced by what English
teachers call a “conjunctive adverb.”
Among the most commonly used conjunctive adverbs are accordingly,
consequently, furthermore, hence, however, indeed, moreover, nevertheless,
nonetheless, otherwise, still, therefore, and thus. Please note that a comma
always follows these words when you use them as conjunctions.
We cannot publish your novel at this time; nevertheless, we encourage
you to keep writing.
The method must be repeatable; otherwise, the results will be considered
invalid.
Our competitors are gaining market share; furthermore, they are
expanding overseas.
12.4 Use a semicolon when you are listing ideas that are (1)
closely related and (2) slightly complex.
In the two examples below (taken from a hypothetical newspaper),
none of the items in the lists requires any internal punctuation, so com-
mas could logically separate them. The writers, with good judgment,
use semicolons instead.
27
All of the candidates for this year’s Golden Jabberwock award hold named
professorships at prestigious universities. Parker Johns is Nodanudder
Professor of Ethics at Princeton; Elizabeth Auchinfee is H. Paul Fopa
Professor of Linguistics at Harvard; Henri Belloq is J. J. Queasel Professor of
Comparative Religion at Columbia; Roxana Olescu is Farrago Professor of
Philosophy at Yale.
Attacks by animals that are usually peaceful have been spreading
throughout Washington, D.C. A pigeon assaulted a police officer in
Georgetown; deer kicked out the windshields and side windows of several
parked cars in McLean Gardens; a flock of seagulls pecked at the head and
neck of a jogger near the Kennedy Center; a pair of squirrels harassed a
151
The Marks

Get Punctuation at Work: Simple Principles for Achieving Clarity and Good Style now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.