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How to Use Semicolon, Examples



The semicolon shows how closely the two sentences are related.  There are three instances in which you can use semicolon:

1. Use semicolon with two closely related independent clauses (has a subject and a predicate). If an idea would go with the topic, but would seem out of place without the proceeding clause, use a semicolon. 

Example: " All cats are mammals; all mammals are not cats."

These two independent clauses could each stand alone. The use of a comma would separate the two independent clauses, creating a comma splice and, therefore, an interruption of the meaning completed in the second clause.  A semicolon is more effective than a period here because the semicolon demonstrates the continuation of the meaning into the second clause.

Example:  "Tom’s divorce is not final; his mind must be in constant turmoil."

Again, the semicolon separates the two independent clauses that can grammatically stand on their own. In this example, the second clause may seem out of place without the first independent clause, and also too important to leave out.

2. We can use a semicolon to link two independent clauses that are joined by adverb phrases: "however", "furthermore", "moreover", "on the other hand", and so on. The semicolon precedes the phrase and be followed by another independent clause.

All cats are mammals; however, all mammals are not cats.

While technically expressing the same information as in the example above, using a transitional expression can help explain the tone of the speaker further more. 

Mary has passed the doctorate admission test; she must be very happy about it.

In this example, once again there is an independent clause followed by a transitional expression and then another independent clause.  The information remains the same, but more information on Mary, to complete the thought, is added.

3. With items in a series that include other forms of punctuation, then separate the items with semicolons.


Readable: For our trip, we will need food; some books, games, and other forms of entertainment; passports; and tickets.

Not easily readable: For our trip, we will need food, some books, games, and other forms of entertainment, passports, and tickets.

Using a semicolon in a series that includes other forms of punctuation helps clarify the items.

While the semicolon can be very effective in writing, it does take some time to get the hang of it.  When using a semicolon, be sure to double check that the statement before and after the semicolon are complete sentences and, if so, check if the semicolon is in the correct place.  When deciding between a period and a semicolon, determine if you are looking for a feeling of finality (use the period) or expectancy (use the semicolon).


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