Thursday, June 17, 2010

Conan the Grammarian: Including Letters to Philosophy and How to Properly Use a Semicolon.

This is my Philosophy face wash:


I am frustrated with my face wash. Specifically, I'm frustrated about an inexcusable grammar error committed by my face wash.

Here is what my face wash says to me every single day:
To begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all; the daily ritual of cleansing.

When I'm angry about grammar, I remember my friend, Conan the Grammarian. Conan is a fictional character Karyn made up (who apparently already existed...) while we were in college to combat poor peasant-like speech patterns.


If you haven't already discovered the grounds for my all-consuming righteous anger, Philosophy incorrectly uses a semicolon in place of a colon. As a tribute to Conan, I would like to talk about how to properly use a semicolon. Because some people think learning proper grammar is boring and/or too difficult, I have included modern pop culture references and allusions to aid in remembrance. I have also written a letter to Philosophy and have included my blog address as a helpful reference point.

Let us begin....

Like women, and people in general, there are two types of sentences:
independent clauses (all the single ladies!)

and dependent clauses (please love me?).

An independent clause (now put cha hands up!) is essentially that -- a clause that can stand alone.
hermione fight

A dependent clause (why don't you ever call me?) NEEDS someone to help it be a complete sentence and not a fragment.
bella dying

Por ejemplo, in the following example:
If you do the Single Ladies dance and post it on YouTube, I think people will watch it.

The first half of that sentence is a dependent clause. Why? Because it cannot stand alone:
If you do the Single Ladies dance and post it on YouTube.
Negatory. You are not independent!

However, the second half of the sentence is an independent clause. Why? Because it can stand alone:
I think people will watch it.

Now that we understand independent and dependent clauses, let's talk about how to use a semicolon. Here is the rule:
A semicolon joins together 2 independent clauses.

So in our example, we could have written:
Do the Single Ladies dance and post it on YouTube; I think people will watch it.

or even further...
Do the Single Ladies dance and post it on YouTube; I think people will watch it; people will watch anything.

You shouldn't use a semicolon in any case where a period wouldn't also work. I like to think of it like this: a period is a full stop -- a wall if you will. A semicolon is a more like half a a wall with a hole through it in which you're trying to say, "I sort of want these two sentences to hold hands and be related."

All that is to say, I love my Philosophy products. They do cute and special things like write recipes on their body wash bottles and include uplifting information about how I'm innately beautiful on their lotions; however, semicolon abuse is inexcusable...sort of like confusing Gandalf and Dumbledore.

So to recap, the sentence should correctly read:
To begin feeling young again, we must begin with the most basic step of all: the daily ritual of cleansing.

A colon always follows a complete sentence and is used to introduce either a list, or something relevant to the previous sentence. Doesn't that make so much more sense?

Don't worry. I'm always looking out for ways to make The Grammar World a safer place. The universe in general is a much better place without having to worry about Conan the Grammarian beating us down for using the eyes of a netspeak smiley-winkey face incorrectly. Phew.

And Philosophy? You are welcome. You are free to send me hundreds of samples expressing your eternal gratitude.


lyndsey said...

Note: Hermione is not actually meant to represent a single lady per se, nor does the word "independent" necessarily conjure up images of singleness (i.e., not being married). I know of many "independent" yet committed and loving wives who also just happen to love Beyonce. That is all.

Mary-Anne said...

Wow. Reading that just made me tired! You definitely should be an English teacher. Definitely!

Ashley said...

This is Joe,

I think I'll be using your blog post next year when I teach about dependent/independent clauses.

Carmen said...

You rock my world! One of the things on my list of Must-Teach for my internship next semester is "students will know how to use a semi-colon properly" ...and I was so excited when I saw that; the semicolon is my absolute favorite piece of punctuation. (See?) And may I pretty please steal the Hermione/Twilight chick idea to teach independent/dependent clauses? I was --no joke-- wracking my brain to think of a memorable way to teach that, only two days ago.

Karyn said...

Thanks teach! You alone have a knack of combining grammar, beauty products, and pop culture--the new triple threat.

Kendra said...

That has made my night.
I always enjoy your wit and humor. I am glad you're my sister. I'm leaving a comment to let you know I "stopped by". Were those proper uses or quotations? ha love you

KeriAnn said...

It's the quality above the quantity that makes your blog so enjoyable for me.

Anonymous said...

I found the comment thing!! Haha. I love the use of Hermione and Bella (please love me) hahahaha

Amanda said...

lyndsey, this is wonderful. not to overdo it, but i think you should also write a blog about the difference between "your" and "you're," and "their," "there" and "they're"...which people just can't seem to figure out for some odd reason. you are, what we call, the grammar police haha. i guess you could say i'm a step down from that...maybe just a grammar security guard at mcdonald's.

lyndsey said...

Joe & Carmen,

I know the future of the English language is safe with grammarians such as yourselves. Teach on.

Kathy said...

1. This was a hoot.
2. You're amazing, genius, and gorgeous thrown in for good measure.
3. Will you write my homeschool grammar curriculum for next year?
4. Can't honestly say I would have noticed the semicolon. But using "begin" twice in one sentence?!! That's nails on a blackboard.
5. Thanks, Rachel, for turning me on to this blog.
6. Thanks, nephew, for marrying this cool chick.
7. ...and now I'm officially afraid to write you, lest I upset Conan.