Semicolons

Punctuating joined clauses

semicolon
 

 

 

Semicolon vs. Comma in Word Lists

LIST ITEMS – PHRASES WITH COMMAS

semicolonUse a semicolon to join an item in a list that already includes one or more commas.

He's traveling to Bangalore, India; Manila, Philippines; Tokyo, Japan.

The sandwich choices include tomato, bacon and lettuce; cheese, ham and lettuce; peanut butter and jelly.  

The shirts were red, white and blue; aqua, yellow and white; purple, yellow, black.

John Taylor is survived by his son, Jack, of California; his daughter, June, of Oregon; his grandchild, Jill, also of Oregon.  

LIST ITEMS – WORDS PHRASES

commaUse a comma to join items in a series that do not already contain commas.  See Commas.

He's traveling to Bangalore, Manila and Tokyo.  

The sandwich choices were ham,cheese,lettuce and tomato.  

The flags were blue,aqua and purple.  

John Taylor is survived by his son,his daughter  and his grandchild.  

 

See Bulleted Lists for punctuating  clauses and sentences in vertical lists.

semicolon, semicolon – The Chicago Manual of Style and AP Style do not use a hyphen to separate the prefix semi- from colon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semicolons

Between two closely related clauses

 

 

 

Semicolon vs. a comma before a coordinating conjunction

TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES SOMEHOW RELATED

A semicolon joins one independent clause to another when the idea of the two clauses is somehow related. No conjunction is used; the relationship is understood from the context.

He couldn't go home; he had no place to go. (reason)

I took a taxi; she drove home. (addition)

He didn't want help; he didn't ask for it.  (neg. addition)

I wanted to go late; she wanted to go on time.  (contrast)

She cooked dinner; he took her out to a restaurant.* (nonsense, not used for "or")

She owned a car; she didn't know how to drive it. (contrary outcome)

She had to go; she called a friend to drive her. (result)

TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES SPECIFICALLY RELATED

A comma is placed before a coordinating conjunction which relates one independent clause to another. The conjunction specifically relates the clauses: addition, contrast, reason, result, contrary outcome, purpose) See FANBOYS.

He couldn't go home, for he had no place to go.

I took a taxi, and she drove home.

He didn't want help, nor did he ask for it.

I wanted to go late, but she wanted to go on time.

She cooked dinner, or he took her out to a restaurant. (alternative, option)

She owned a car, yet she didn't know how to drive it.

She had to go, so she called a friend to drive her.  

 

Related page: Fragments (Clauses)  |  FANBOYS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semi Colons

Before linking adverbs

 

 

 

A semicolon vs. a period before a linking adverb

RELATING  AN EXISTING IDEA

A semicolon marks the boundary between two independent clauses. The linking adverb relates the idea of the first clause to the next. Both clauses are equal in emphasis.

We wanted to go to Cuba; however, the trip had to be approved the State Department.

We wanted to go; moreover, we made plans and bought tickets.

We needed to have a security report; otherwise, we wouldn't go.

He told us he could not give us his assurance; nevertheless, we went.

We forgot to ask about a visa; consequently, we were not permitted to enter.

ADDING A NEW IDEA

A period to separates two independent clauses, and is used when the second clause is loosely (less) related to the previous clause, or it requires more emphasis.

We wanted to go to Cuba. However, the trip had to be approved the State Department.

We wanted to go. Moreover, we made plans and bought tickets.

We needed to have a security report. Otherwise, we wouldn't go.

He told us he could not give us his assurance. Nevertheless, we went.

We forgot to ask about a visa. Consequently, we were not permitted to enter.
 

 

linking adverb (however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus, meanwhile, nonetheless, etc.)  See Connector Review (for other conjunctive adverbs / transition words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semicolons

Before examples

motorcyclist
 

 

Semicolon vs. comma before an example

BEFORE A CLAUSE

A semicolon joins two independent clauses when the second clause begins with an  adverb introducing an example —for instance, that is, in fact, in other words.

The inner city has small narrow streets; for example, two motorcycles can pass by each other, but two cars can't.

Motorcyclists disregard stop signs; in other words, a driver will go right through an intersection marked with a stop.

In the city center, cars are not allowed; that is, automobiles must be parked outside the city perimeter.

People need to be prepared to walk a distance; in fact, we hiked four kilometers. 

The Lion fountain is beautiful; indeed, the sculptures are works of art.

BEFORE A PHRASE

A comma joins an example phrase to an independent clause. A comma is also used after the adverb introducing an example. (for instance, that is, in fact, etc.)

The inner city has small narrow streets, for example, Independence Street and Central Street.

Motorcyclists disregard stop signs, in other words, they don't stop!

In the city center, cars are not allowed, that is, prohibited.

People need to be prepared to walk a distance, in fact, four kilometers.

The old fountain is beautiful, indeed, a pleasure to the eye. (emphasis)

 

Also see For example (Chicago Manual 6.44)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Semicolon

Unlike a colon

 

 

 

Semicolon vs. colon

A SEMICOLON RESTATES – "IN OTHER WORDS"

A semicolon joins two independent clauses when the second clause restates the first or when the clauses are of equal emphasis –  "In other words".

The trip to Frankfurt takes several hours; the flight is long and tiring.

The airport  terminal is rather confusing to get around; give yourself plenty of time to find your gate.

Security is high at the airport; all areas are on alert.

Airlines are offering less service in flight; fewer items are free on board. 

A COLON EXEMPLIFIES – "FOR EXAMPLE"

A colon is placed before a list of examples (words or phrases) or a clause giving details related to the first clause, "for example". 

The trip to Frankfurt takes several hours: it is about ten hours without traffic.

The airport terminal is rather confusing to get around: signs are missing or inaccurate.

Security is high at the airport: car trunks, suitcases and people are carefully searched.

Airlines are offering fewer service: you have to pay for a meal or a blanket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

We forgot to ask about a visa we were not permitted to enter.    (run-on sentence)   

The inner city has small narrow streets for example: Independence Street and Central Street.

The solution includes: educating the children; promoting job opportunities and offering micro loans to entrepreneurs.

People are far too distracted nowadays; they talk on the phone, check email and watch television at the same time.

Security is high in the city; people have to pass by several check points.

SOLUTION

We forgot to ask about a visa. We were not permitted to enter.

We forgot to ask about a visa; we were not permitted to enter.

We forgot to ask about a visa, so we were not permitted to enter.

We forgot to ask about a visa. Consequently, we were not permitted to enter.

The inner city has small narrow streets, for example, Independence Street and Central Street.

The inner city has small narrow streets; for example, there is/are Independence Street and Central Street.

The solution includes educating the children, promoting job opportunities and offering micro loans to entrepreneurs.  (No semicolon or colon is used after including. Commas are used to join phrases in a list.)

The solution includes (1) educating the children, (2) promoting job opportunities and (3) offering micro loans to entrepreneurs.

People are far too distracted nowadays: they talk on the phone, check email and watch television at the same time.  (Use a colon to detail examples.) 

Security is high in the city: people have to pass by several check points. (Use a colon to amplify or exemplify the preceding clause. The colon itself means "for example".)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punctuation Notes

Italics or Underlining

 

 

 

TYPING A SEMICOLON USAGE NOTES

A  semicolon exists as a key on a standard keyboard.

 

Windows Alt+ 3B

Unicode is (U+003B)

HTML &#59;

 

Besides being used between independent clauses not linked by conjunctions, semicolons are used in the following situations. (MLA 3.2.3)

(1) Semicolons are also used between list iems if an item in the list already contains commas.   

 Children are attracted to cereal brands by characters such as Snap, Crackle, Pop; BuzzBee; Tony the Tiger; Sugar Bear; Captain Crunch; and the Trix Rabbit.

(2) Semicolons are used in titles with two subtitles.

  Sereny. Gitta. Cries Unheard: Why Children Kill; The Story of Mary Bell. New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999. Print. (Chicago Manual 17.54)

A semicolon may be used after parentheses or brackets.

  She collected her salary (her final check); then, she left the building. (Chicago Manual 6.62)

(3) Before a transitional word (however, consequently, for example, that is) linking two independent clauses.  (Sabin 178-81)

  She wanted to go; however, they continued to ask her to stay.

Also see APA 4.04

(AP Style Book 333) (Chicago Manual 6.44)

 

 

Resources 

 

Style Manual Abbreviations (used in this website)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Microcredit

Entrepreneurs
 

 

Read Context (without punctuation)

Microcredit is the "new wave" of development the small loans are a solution to encouraging self-reliance.

Microcredit has enabled extremely poor people to take on self-employment projects it helps people become self-reliant.

There are several advantages for example, it generates income, builds wealth and ends poverty.

Due to the success of microcredit many in the traditional banking industry have become fans of it.

Microcredit is based on a separate set of principles which are different from general financing or credit.

Microcredit encourages (1) building the business (2) employing more people (3) building trust and (4) getting people through difficult times.

The expectations are (1) the person will start a business (2) the person will grow the business (3) the person will employ others and (4) the person will repay the loan.

A loan is not made in the form of a single loan but as a group of several smaller loans.

The entrepreneur receives a low-interest loan to build a business however, the person does not build a credit history with a bank.

Some microfinance organizations are Kiva, California, World Vision, Washington, MicroLoan, London ACCION, Washington, D.C .

advantages (n.) – good points; something that helps you to be more successful

builds wealth – makes and saves more money

credit history – a record of trust in repaying loans

development (n.) – the process of becoming bigger, better, stronger, or more advanced

employ (v.) – hire, offer a job to a person

entrepreneur – person who borrows money to start a business

ends poverty – stops the situation of being poor

financing (n.) – the managing of money by large institutions and businesses.

generates income – makes money to live on

industry (a count noun) – businesses that produce a particular type of thing or provide a particular service

loans (n.) – an amount of money that is given with the expectation of repayment

low-interest – amount charged a to borrow money

microcredit (n.) – the lending of small amounts of money to help people start small businesses (in poor countries)

new wave – popular new way

principle (n.) – a basic idea, plan or system

project (n.) – carefully planned work; something a person works to build or create 

self-reliance (n.) – able to do things by oneself, without depending on the help of others

trust (n.) – a strong belief in honesty and goodness

 

 

 

 

Comma or semicolon?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the check button to the left  as you go.

 

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however, the person does not build a credit history with a bank.  

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Practice 2

Keeping a Traditional Craft

Shoe repairman
 

 

Read for errors

Norman is a shoe repairman a good one! He is a craftsman he does an excellent job. He works on leather shoes which can last a long time for his customers. He repairs heels that are worn the heels need replacing.

He has had the same customers for years they are loyal. And he has had the shop for years in fact for forty years. He has had the same reputation for years in fact he's had it for forty years.

He fixes shoes moreover he fixes handbags, belts and luggage. A lot of his customers need their shoes back right away so he has to work efficiently to get them done while they wait.

Norman's four apprentices are George his oldest son Jack his younger son Nina his niece and Nickolas a friend's son. One day, one of them will take over his shop and continue the excellent work.

apprentice (n.) – assistants who learn while on the job

craft (n.) – an art or skill learned from others; a profession requiring a particular skill set

efficiently (adv) – work well without wasting time

reputation (n.) –  the opinion that people have about a person or service because of past experience

worn (adj) – old because of use

 

 

 

 

Edit for errors

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

11.
Norman is a shoe repairman a good one!


12.
He is a craftsman he does an excellent job.


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He works on leather shoes which can last a long time for his customers.


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He repairs heels that are worn the heels need replacing.


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He has had the same customers for years they are loyal.


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And he has had the same shop for years in fact for forty years.


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He has had the same reputation for years in fact he’s had it for forty years.


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He fixes shoes moreover he fixes handbags, belts and luggage.


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A lot of his customers need their shoes back right away so he has to work efficiently to get them done while they wait.


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Norman's four apprentices are George his oldest son Jack his younger son Nina his niece and Nickolas, a friend's son.