Last week, one of my professors asked us to do some peer-editing. We were put into group of three and were asked to exchange papers we had written in the past for other classes.
It started out innocent enough, that paper about mythopoetics. Everything was okay. I was learning about Wallace Stevens and about how he really likes poetry to the point of worshiping it... or something. It was interesting, even. I don't know a lot about Wallace Stevens. I was receiving an education just fine.
Until it came along.
Right there. Right in the middle of a sentence where it didn't belong.
"He is the angel between human thought and its association with the world; traveling between the poetic imagination and reality."
It looked that big to me, I swear. I stared for a moment. The person who used this semicolon had made a bold move. I circled the semicolon. I drew an arrow pointing to the second part of the sentence and wrote "this is not an independent clause."
And then I crossed that out. What if I was wrong? To cover my ass, I scribbled in "incorrect use." It would be vague enough to work.
I'm not really sure why, but once a person declares an English major, it's like they're under the impression that they've been issued a Semicolon License or something. If you're an English major, you can just put them anywhere you like, because you are smart and you read books. I read a lot of books and I am pretty sure I am never confident about when and when not to use a semicolon. I never got the memo than my status as English major made me a godly user of semicolons.
Oh, wait, because it doesn't.
Kurt Vonnegut once said "Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."
All a semicolon does is show that you are, or were, an English major, and that you feel that you have earned your Semicolon License. But that's a lie. Just don't do it. There is always a safer way.
And in conclusion, I give you The Oatmeal. Go there and learn.