For lack of a semicolon

Can you tell how many people were leaving LAX from this statement on

fp olivier

There was Olivier Martinez. There was his wife. There was Halle Berry. And then there were some kids. Or maybe not.

Unless you know that Mr. Martinez’s wife is Halle Berry, it’s hard to tell how many adults were at LAX. Enter the semicolon!

The semicolon has fallen out of favor over the last few decades, but it has it uses. And this is one of them. Using a semicolon, you can distinguish an appositive from an item in a list. Like this:

The actor; his wife, Halle Berry; and their kids


3 Responses to “For lack of a semicolon”

  1. lectorconstans Says:

    I’m in favor of adding a little-used punctuation mark (parentheses). Using them can help in many situations.

    The actor, his wife (Halle Berry) and their kids….

    Would this work?

    The actor, his wife Halle Berry, and their kids….

    • Laura Says:

      The parens work. The problem with “wife Halle Berry” is that “wife” and “Halle Berry” are appositives and therefore should be set off with commas. Of course, if Mr. Martinez has more than one wife, then “wife Halle Berry” would work.

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