Properly Punctuated: Semicolon, ;

Posted December 14, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Properly Punctuated, Self-Editing, Writing

The semicolon has two main functions: replacing the comma in a serial list and joining two closely related independent clauses. The serial list semicolon helps distinguish items in a list if the item phrase includes commas.

As for the independent clauses, running two complete sentences together in one sentence creates a run-on. A major no-no. Instead, use a semicolon to join the two sentences, BUT the sentences must be closely related in topic.

Properly Punctuated is…

…the proper use of quotation marks, commas, semicolons, colons, ellipsis, etc., including how to properly mark dialog, ahem. As Properly Punctuated is in no way complete, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone…

If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page — and consider sharing this Properly Punctuated tidbit with friends by tweeting it.

Semicolon, ;
Credit to:; Purdue OWL
Punctuation: ;
Definition: A punctuation mark indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced than that indicated by a comma.

General Rule: Its main purpose is to join two complete and similar sentences. When two thoughts are tied strongly to one another, you may find a period too great a separation. Using a semicolon visibly increases the link between these thoughts.

If you can use a period, you can use a semicolon — just don’t give up on using periods!


Elements of Grammar
Rule: Joins two independent clauses when the second clause restates the first, when the two clauses are of equal emphasis, or when the independent clauses are closely related.
Road construction in Dallas has hindered travel around town; streets have become covered with bulldozers, trucks, and cones.

There were four survivors on this island; only two remain.

This coffee maker doesn’t just make coffee; it also greets you personally.

A zombie eats brains; a shotgun fixes that.

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Rule: Joins two independent clauses when the second clause begins with:
Conjunctive Adverb Definition: Use when connecting ideas to ease the transition between ideas in a sentence or between sentences. They do this by showing comparison, contrast, sequence, cause-effect or other relationships between ideas (K12Reader)

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Rule: Joins two independent clauses and acts like a coordinating conjunction, BUT requires a semicolon — NOT a comma — to join the clauses

  1. Green indicates the ; conj. adverb ,

John was supposed to join us; nevertheless, he wasn’t there.

Marge’s deep freeze doesn’t hold more than fifty pounds of meat; otherwise, she would have picked up more venison.

The dog chased down his prey; then, to the child’s delight, Rover licked his laughing face.

List of Conjunctive Adverbs
Transition Rule: Many conjunctive adverbs act like a coordinating conjunction AND require a semicolon, NOT a comma, to join the two independent clauses.
Return to top List of Transitional Phrases
even so
for example
for instance
in addition
in fact
in other words
on the other hand
that is
Terrorism in the United States has become a recent concern; in fact, the concern for America’s safety has led to an awareness of global terrorism.

I like the thought of an underwater bear; however, I wouldn’t want to meet one.

Join Series With Existing Commas
Rule: When elements of a series already use commas, semicolons take over the job of separating those elements; end the series with a comma and a conjunction, and.

  1. Yellow indicates the concluding comma and conjunction
  2. Green indicates the individual elements
  3. Orange indicates the semicolon

Recent sites of the Olympic Games include Athens, Greece; Salt Lake City, Utah; Sydney, Australia; and, Nagano, Japan.

Ask your father to pick up bread, milk, butter, and cheese from the corner shop; lamb and beef from the market; and, onions from the farm on Little Road.