Semicolon 
Rules and Examples


Punctuation marks The semicolon is a form of punctuation in the English language. The semicolon ( ; ) looks like a period ( . ) over a comma ( , ).

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How to use the semicolon

There are three uses of the semicolon.

1. 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.

Incorrect:
  • 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.

A cat      The park


2. Use a semicolon to join two related, or similar, sentences when using a conjunctive adverb.

A conjunctive adverb is a connecting word such as:
  • also
  • besides
  • finally
  • similarly
  • likewise
  • furthermore
  • however
  • next
  • then
  • therefore
  • meanwhile
Examples:
  • We will drive to school; then we will go to the museum.
  • I ate all of my vegetables; therefore, I should get dessert.
Dessert


3. 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:

Correct:
  • My favorite teachers are Mrs. White, my math teacher; Mrs. Smith, my reading teacher; and Mr. Johnson, my music teacher.
Incorrect:
  • My favorite teachers are Mrs. White, my math teacher, Mrs. Smith, my reading teacher, and Mr. Johnson, my music teacher.

Example with dates:

Correct:

  • Our birthdays are July 11, 2000; February 12, 2007; and April 9, 2007.
Incorrect:
  • Our birthdays are July 11, 2000, February 12, 2007, and April 9, 2007.

Example with locations:


Correct:
  • I have lived in Paris, France; London, England; and Los Angeles, California.
Incorrect:
  • I have lived in Paris, France, London, England, and Los Angeles, California.

The globe

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:
  • restaurant
  • boy
  • school
  • woman
A proper noun is noun that names a specific person place or thing.

Examples of proper nouns:
  • McDonald's
  • Tom
  • Kansas University
  • Google
Correct:
  • 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.

Incorrect:
  • 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.

Incorrect:
  • My favorite color is red; but my bike is green.
Correct:
  • My favorite color is red, but my bike is green.
Incorrect:
  • My sister was sleeping; so I turned off the lights.
Correct:
  • My sister was sleeping, so I turned off the lights.

These were the uses of the semicolon. Now that you know them, it is time to practice! Read and do exercises.

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