Lynne Truss turns punctuation into entertainment. She delivers grammar rules wrapped in fun examples and witty commentary.
“Shoots” isn’t a parody; it’s full of practical advice. Unlike any other grammar reference I’ve read, Truss laughs at herself and her fellow Comma Kings and Queens. The very fact that she has a “zero tolerance approach to punctuation” should tip you off that she takes the whole subject lightly. As William Zinsser makes you a better self editor, Lynne Truss will make you a happier self-correcter.
So, when do you use a semicolon?
In Chapter three Truss says it mainly goes between two related full sentences where there is no conjunction such as “and” or “but,” and where a comma would be ungrammatical:
I overused the dash; now I embrace the semicolon.
There are other excellent excuses to use a semicolon, she says, like “calling a bunch of brawling commas to attention.” And of course spelling “TL;DR” is impossible without it.
If you find you use the em dash a lot in your writing, hope lies to the right of your L key. Hope and humor are good things when you’re trying to write when you’re busy. Read Truss’s advice, laugh with her at Virginia Woolf and even discover how to send a nuanced hidden message to your readers by using a semicolon here and there.