Which is correct?

"Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market; it created it."


"Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market, it created it."

I understand a comma is usually required in not-only-this-but-also-that sentences, but in my example, I've omitted the conjunction as I want to convey a sense of potency and impressiveness. Does this merit the use of a semicolon?

  • This is actually one of the most interesting questions of the day. Does the omission of the coordinating conjunction "but" in the parallelism beget cause for a semicolon? I didn't originally think so, but it very well might. There is neither a subordinating conjunction nor a coordinating conjunction before either clause, but neither clause appears independent. They appear exactly interdependent, which is exactly what semicolons are for. Because of the parallelism, however, most everybody at first blush would say the use of a semicolon is wrong. Is it really wrong, though? Good question! – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 13:18
  • I changed the name of your question to make it more search engine friendly. It's an interesting question, so let's make sure it comes up for others researching the same issue. – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 13:25
  • I'd think this (the semicolon) is just wrong. Neither of the two parts makes independent sense. – Kris Feb 14 '16 at 15:18
  • This is not an instance of not-only-this-but-also-that sentences -- think out of that structure and the semicolon shows up as incorrect. – Kris Feb 14 '16 at 15:20

You use a semicolon to connect two interdependent clauses. In your first example, this connection is grammatically correct.

I would use a comma because the the two parts basically belong together in a not-only-this-but-also-that sense (as you previously put it).

Therefore, I would consider both sentences correct, but use the second one for this particular example.

Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market, it created it.

  • Much appreciated, Jera. – Malcolm Jan 15 '16 at 10:17
  • Would you consider "Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market" to be an independent clause, though? "not only" is kind of a tricky one in my opinion, because you could argue that it becomes a dependent clause by way of missing information that the wording leads you to expect. I could be entirely wrong, of course. – John Clifford Jan 15 '16 at 10:19
  • Well, of course it becomes dependent by adding not only, but I would rather consider it a semantical dependency, not a grammatical one. <-- Bear in mind that concerning not only this is a feeling I have. I am not sure, if I could back it up by any rules. – jera Jan 15 '16 at 10:21
  • I suppose it is more of a semantic dependency; good answer regardless, you have earned my upvote. :) – John Clifford Jan 15 '16 at 10:24
  • @jera : You're right that the two clauses do not rise to the level of being independent, but I do think they achieve being "interdependent." A semicolon is exactly appropriate between interdependent clauses. If this weren't a parallelism that has stock grammar associated with it that prescribes the use of a comma, I'd say a semicolon is appropriate, particularly since the OP's construction deviates from the standard parallelism by omitting the coordinating conjunction "but," as in "not only, but also." And maybe omitting the "but" does in fact make a semicolon appropriate. Maybe. – Benjamin Harman Jan 15 '16 at 12:47

This is an example of "parallel construction."

There are a number of phrasings in English that take a specific format grammatically. This is one of those situations.

In order to write what you said grammatically, you would write:

Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market, it created it.

While not necessary to rephrase it, the proforma language for this construction would be:

Silicon Valley not only cornered the social media market, but also it created it.

This particular parallelism is branded "not only/but also."

I do get your drift regarding the semicolon. Written as it is, there is no subordinating (or coordinating) conjunction, so by conventional grammatical standards, a semicolon would intercede. Were it not for the fact that this parallelism has a specified grammar already associated with it, it very well might better be written with a semicolon as it would join two clauses that would certainly be interdependent.

Now, I'm going to preach to the choir. Being that you've deviated from the stock language that uses the coordinating conjunction "but," which is the very thing that mandates a comma be used here, it's arguable that a semicolon would be more appropriate than a comma. So if you think a semicolon creates "impressiveness," then by all means, use one. Just go into it knowing that some people will think it's wrong. That would be the price of "impressiveness."

  • Many thanks, Benjamin. Just to clarify, I wasn't suggesting that the use of a semicolon would make me personally look impressive. Rather, I intended to emphasise the impressiveness of Silicon Valley's stature in terms of the social media market. On a tonal level the proforma example weakens this, if you see where I'm coming from. – Malcolm Jan 15 '16 at 14:18

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