One of the features of slush and poorly-edited self-published works is poor punctuation. In particular the poor semicolon takes a beating.
Here are two simple truths about semicolons, and they are all you absolutely need to know about them:
The best and most fail-safe way to use a semicolon is…
… not at all.
That’s right. Written language doesn’t need semicolons. At all. So if you’re unsure of their use, just don’t use them. Simple. And, by the way, semicolon-peppered manuscripts are quite amateurish anyway, so just ease off on them. No more than 2 per chapter/story is probably a good guideline.
… if you are determined to have semicolons, here’s another easy rule: a semicolon is interchangeable with a full stop, and NOT with a comma. Also easy to remember. If, however, you are of the variety unsure about the placement of full stops vs commas, then, well, maybe you just need to brush up on punctuation in general, and it’s probably best to forget about the semicolon altogether. You don’t need it, and if punctuation is not your forte, chances are that the humble semicolon will just get you into a whole lot of unnecessary trouble.