A semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark that is used to separate and connect independent clauses or when something stronger than a comma is needed.
Most often, semicolons are used to connect two independent clauses instead of using a comma + conjunction. Writers use semicolons instead of conjunctions for stylistic effect and when the two sentences being joined are short and closely related.
Examples of Semicolons:
Joan likes eggs; Jennifer does not.
The cat slept through the storm; the dog cowered under the bed.
Semicolons are also used in a sentence when something stronger than a comma is needed. Three common scenarios when a semicolon would be used are these:
- When items in a series have been separated with commas, but the sentence needs an additional comma after the series OR to separate items in a series when any of the items already have commas.
- Before a conjunctive adverb in a sentence (i.e. however, therefore).
- To separate lines in an address when you are writing it as a sentence.
Examples of Semicolon Use in Sentences
- If you bring your sunglasses, sunscreen, and a towel; we can go to the beach.
- The groups of siblings who will be coming to camp include John and Anne; Jeff, Lisa, and Tommy; and Mark and Jonas.
- I have lived in Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; and Tallahassee, FL.
- The address for the letter is PO Box 37; Martin, NY 30065.
- Marie made a 100 on the quiz; Lois made a 95.
- It was raining; the game was cancelled.
- I like bacon, eggs, and cheese; but not all together on a sandwich.
- I always try to pack light for vacation; however, I always seem to need an extra bag for all of my shoes and books.
There are three uses of the semicolon.
- Use a semicolon to connect (put together) two related, or similar, sentences.
We connect the sentences with a semicolon to eliminate the pause between them.
Example without a semicolon:
My shirt is green. My brother’s shirt is blue.
When we say these two sentences aloud, we say, “My shirt is green. (pause) My brother’s shirt is blue.”
Example with a semicolon:
My shirt is green; my brother’s is blue.
When we say this sentence aloud, we do not pause after green.
We can put these two sentences together with a semicolon because they are similar. They are both about the colors of the shirts.
Here are some more examples.
Example without a semicolon:
I have my own bed. The cat sleeps on the pillow.
Example with a semicolon:
I have my own bed; the cat sleeps on the pillow.
We can put these two sentences together with a semicolon because they are similar. They are both about my bed.
Tim likes cats; Bill went to the park.
These two sentences should not be put together with a semicolon because they are not similar. They are about two different subjects.
- Use a semicolon to join two related, or similar, sentences when using a conjunctive adverb.
A conjunctive adverb is a connecting word such as:
We will drive to school; then we will go to the museum.
I ate all of my vegetables; therefore, I should get dessert.
- Use a semicolon to connect items in a list if there are already commas in the sentence. Use this when listing dates, locations, names and descriptions.
Example with names and descriptions:
My favorite teachers are Mrs. White, my math teacher; Mrs. Smith, my reading teacher; and Mr. Johnson, my music teacher.
My favorite teachers are Mrs. White, my math teacher, Mrs. Smith, my reading teacher, and Mr. Johnson, my music teacher.
Example with dates:
Our birthdays are July 11, 2000; February 12, 2007; and April 9, 2007.
Example with locations:
I have lived in Paris, France; London, England; and Los Angeles, California.
I have lived in Paris, France, London, England, and Los Angeles, California.
Tips for Using the Semicolon
1) Do not capitalize the word following the semicolon, unless it is a proper noun.
A noun names a person place or thing.
Examples of nouns:
A proper noun is noun that names a specific person place or thing.
Examples of proper nouns:
This summer my father traveled to Columbus, Ohio; Miami, Florida; and Atlanta, Georgia.
We capitalize the “M” on Miami because it is a proper noun. We do not capitalize the “a” on and because it is not a proper noun.
Some people like apple pie; Cherry pie is my favorite.
We should not capitalize the “c” on cherry because it is not a proper noun.
2) Do not use a semicolon with conjunctions.
Conjunctions are combining words like and, but, or, for, so, and yet.
Use a comma with conjunctions.
My favorite color is red; but my bike is green.
My favorite color is red, but my bike is green.
My sister was sleeping; so I turned off the lights.
My sister was sleeping, so I turned off the lights.
- He is not really nice looking and yet he has enormous charm
- When I was a child I could watch TV whenever I wanted to
- It is a fine idea let us hope that it is going to work
- Mrs Solomon who was sitting behind the desk gave me a big smile
- We were believe it or not in love with each other
- I don’t like this one bit said Julia
- Have you met our handsome new financial director
- If you are ever in London come and see you
- Michael in the Ferrari was cornering superbly
- Looking straight at her he said I cant help you
[4/7, 13:12] vemagirisudhakar: Answers
- He is not really nice-looking, and yet he has enormous charm.
- When I was a child, I could watch TV whenever I wanted to.
- It is a fine idea; let us hope that it is going to work.
- Mrs Solomon, who was sitting behind the desk, gave me a big smile.
- We were, believe it or not, in love with each other.
- ‘I don’t like this one bit,’ said Julia.
- Have you met our handsome new financial director?
- If you are ever in London, come and see you.
- Michael, in the Ferrari, was cornering superbly.
- Looking straight at her, he said, ‘I can’t help you.’