Semicolons

 

PowerPoint Presentation

To learn more about semicolon usage, check out our slideshow, Our Friend, the Semicolon.

 

Usage

Use a semicolon [ ; ]

  • to help sort out a monster list: There were citizens from Kingston, Ontario; Edmonton, Alberta; Regina, Saskatchewan; and Saint John, New Brunswick.

OR

  • to separate closely related independent clauses: My grandmother seldom goes to bed this early; she’s afraid she’ll miss out on something.

The semicolon allows the writer to imply a relationship between nicely balanced ideas without actually stating that relationship. (Instead of saying because my grandmother is afraid she’ll miss out on something, we have implied the because. Thus the reader is involved in the development of an idea—a clever, subliminal way of engaging the reader’s attention.)

It is rare, but certainly possible, that you will want a semicolon to separate two independent clauses even when those two independent clauses are connected by a coordinating conjunction. This is especially true when the independent clauses are complex or lengthy and when there are commas within those independent clauses. You might consider breaking those two independent clauses into separate sentences when this happens. For example:

  • Coach Auriemma realized that his next recruiting class contained two superb guards, a fine post player, and a power forward; but as of the end of the spring recruiting season, he was still pushing to discover better first-year players for the interior positions.

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Exercises

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