I am currently reading The Outsiders and ran into this sentence:

But then, Soda is different from anybody; he understands everything, almost.

Why is there a semi colon here, shouldn't it be turned to a parenthetical statement with commas?

  • 1
    That’s a perfectly normal use of a semicolon.
    – tchrist
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 0:04
  • The clauses are independent but related. This licenses the semi-colon. See swarthmore.edu/writing/semicolons-and-colons-0
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 0:04
  • Thanks for the resource. When using a semicolon, for example in this situation: I like this class; it is very interesting, do you need to describe what the 'it' is. Basically, how would 'it was very interesting' be an independent clause Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 0:14
  • 1
    @ChristopherU'Ren An independent clause doesn't depend on having a clear subject. It just needs a subject.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 1:47
  • Possible duplicate of Using Either a Comma or a Semicolon
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 2:41

1 Answer 1


See The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, Macmillan, 1979, Chapter 1, pages 5 and 7, respectively, on the use of semicolons and colons. One often separates independent clauses with semicolons, as the author of your sentence did. It's standard usage.

There is nothing wrong with the use of the semicolon in the sentence you've quoted. However, based on my reading of Strunk and White, a colon would be preferable in this case because the second of the two independent clauses ("he understands everything, almost") amplifies or interprets the first ("But then, Soda is different from anybody"). So, instead of using a semicolon, the author could have written:

But then, Soda is different from anybody: he understands everything, almost.

But the author chose to use a semicolon.

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