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Reply to "Question about a semi colon"

Is the semi-colon in the following sentence grammatically correct? Or should it be replaced by a comma?

“Multiple media outlets have opted for ‘refugee’ when describing those fleeing the invasion, despite using ‘migrant’ in relation to people fleeing the Middle East; further complicating the often blurred distinction between the two terms.”



Hi, everybody—In my official capacity here as moderator, I second Gustavo's advice regarding the semicolon in this sentence. From a conservative modern standpoint, it is incorrect. Modern convention has crippled the semicolon.

In truth, I have no problem at all with that semicolon, which I think works beautifully in the sentence in question. The semicolon functions here as a "super-comma," relating what follows it to all of what comes before it.

If the semicolon were a comma, the  "further complicating . . ." phrase would naturally be understood as a nonfinite predicate taking "using 'migrant' in relation to people fleeing the Middle East" as its implied subject.

But that would be a misunderstanding. The phrase following the semicolon takes the entirety of what comes before it as its implied subject, as illustrated in the paraphrase below:

  • Multiple media outlets' having opted for 'rufugee' when describing those fleeing the invasion despite (their) using 'migrant' in relation to people fleeing the Middle East further complicates the often blurred distinction between the two terms.
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