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The Basic Rules of Using Semicolon

The most well-known function of the semicolon is that they link parts of sentences or specific ideas in lists. However, is that enough to use them correctly? Of course, no. The usage of a semicolon is usually connected with numerous details which put a spoke in the one's wheels. Most of them will be discussed below!

There are four reasons to use a semicolon. Use the roadmap below to memorize them quickly!

⚪ Use the semicolon to join parts of the sentences that have a logical link, but have qualities of independent sentences. In other words, these parts could be easily transformed into separate sentences.
✔️ I ordered cheese from France; French cuisine is my passion!
⚪ Replace "but", "or", "and". However, be careful! You can't put both conjunction and semicolon.
✔️ Sun was shining; my neighbors decided to make a barbecue. ("and" is missed).
⚪ Use the semicolon to cut up long parts of the list.
✔️ His plan was perfect: to open the door (which is permanently unlocked); to put a sausage near the doorstep; to steel the dog which will eat it.
⚪ Use the semicolon before conjunctive adverbs (however, moreover, also and so on) that couple different ideas.
✔️ The government announced the risk of a hurricane in the USA; however, some USA citizens ignore official information.

Comma vs Semicolon

A semicolon is often replaced by a comma in papers which leads to mistake. It is helpful to keep in mind the main features of punctuation marks to avoid problems with literacy.

The main features of the comma are:

  • Short pause. It is less indicated than pause after period or semicolon.
  • Separating non-independent parts of the sentences. It means that neither of these parts could be transformed into separated sentences.
  • Combining with a conjunction is normal.

The main features of semicolon are:

  • Well-indicated pause. It is shorter than a pause after a period but more prolonged than a pause after a comma.
  • Separating independent parts of the sentences. All of these parts could be transformed into sentences. However, they have a logical link, so that semicolon is used instead of a period.
  • Using conjunction is not allowed. Semicolon could be used only instead of conjunction.

Comma or Semicolon?

The prevalent problem is a battle between comma and semicolon. Which one should be used?
Learn now how to make the right choice!

A table about where it is better to use commas and where semicolons

Semicolon: The Most Common Mistakes

Forewarned is forearmed! This phrase should be a motivation for those who are going to overcome grammar difficulties with the usage of a semicolon. Read about the most common mistakes to keep away from them.

Two independent clauses are combined with comma

Wrong❌ Right✔️
He was a great teacher, he was invited to teach a prince. He was a great teacher; he was invited to teach a prince.

This example shows the combination of two independent clauses. Therefore, using a comma instead of a semicolon is not allowed.

Missing semicolon before a conjunctive verb

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Tom prepared everything for the party, thus, guests enjoyed the celebration so much! Tom prepared everything for the party; thus, guests enjoyed the celebration so much!

"Thus" is a conjunctive verb. Using commas with conjunctive verbs is not allowed so that a semicolon should be used.

Using capital letter after semicolon

Wrong❌ Right✔️
Mary paid for this lovely dress only 5$ last Sunday; The sale in the City Mall is fantastic this year. Mary paid for this lovely dress only 5$ last Sunday; the sale in the City Mall is fantastic this year.

The capital letter is not used after a semicolon. In this sentence "the" shouldn't be capitalized.

Missing semicolon in a list with inner punctuation

Wrong❌ Right✔️
They were singing in Great Britain, but not in London, they were acting in the USA, but only in small villages, they had an album, but well-known for one song. They were singing in Great Britain, but not in London; they were acting in the USA, but only in small villages; they had an album, but well-known for one song.

Using comma instead of semicolon in lists with internal punctuation leads to misunderstanding. In such a situation, ideas should be divided only with a semicolon.

FAQ

Is it possible to write the capital letter after the semicolon if two clauses have features of separated sentences?

No! While using the semicolon to connect independent clauses, each part of the sentence should be written from small letters. Notice! This rule is not connected with proper nouns. As usual, they should be capitalized.

Why couldn't the semicolon be replaced with comma?

Because this leads to comma splice.

Is it possible to use a semicolon to link opposite ideas?

Yes, it is possible if two opposite clauses have a logical connection. Usually, it happens when the author wants to replace the word "but". Notice! You can't use both conjunction and a semicolon at the same time.

Grammar Checklist

After using a semicolon in the sentence, it is good to check the necessity of usage. Arm the checklist below to do it successfully!

  • ✔️ I connected two independent clauses of the sentence, and they both linked with each other logically.
  • ✔️ I didn't use capital letters after semicolon.
  • ✔️ I didn't use both conjunction and semicolon.
  • ✔️ I divided the long parts of the list.

In conclusion, semicolon is something between a comma and a period. It is used to join separate statements in one sentence regardless of whether these ideas are similar or opposite. The proper usage of a semicolon could be confusing, but with exercises and our guides, one will overcome difficulties.

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