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Semicolons

A semicolon is a period on top of a comma.  In some ways, a semicolon is like a period; in some ways, a semicolon is like a comma.  Semicolons are frequently used incorrectly, so it is important to understand the rules for using them.


1.  A semicolon can be used instead of a period between two closely-linked ideas.  

          Examples:

          --The test is tomorrow; it will cover everything we have learned so far                  this semester.

          --Quinlan cannot eat shrimp; he is allergic to shellfish.

          --Kendra is great at giving advice; she listens to problems carefully                    without judging and analyzes all the possible solutions.  

In all these examples, a writer can use a period instead of a semicolon.  Of course, if a period is used instead of a semicolon, the word following the semicolon must be capitalized. 


​2.  A semicolon can be used before a transitional expression when it introduces a complete sentence.  A comma should come after the transitional expression.

          Examples:

          --The kids played in the mud all day; therefore, they needed to bathe                    before going to bed.

          --Marcus and Jimmy had been friends since elementary school;                          however, they drifted apart after high school.

          --Shayla decorated the house; meanwhile, Tobby shopped for food.

          --Amina plays many sports; for example, she plays volleyball, tennis,                 and softball.

In all these examples, a writer can use a period instead of a semicolon.  Of course, if a period is used instead of a semicolon, the word following the semicolon must be capitalized. 


The main thing to remember with rule 1 and rule 2 is that a full sentence comes before and after the semicolon.  


​3.  A semicolon needs to be used to separate items in a series when one or more items already contain commas.

          Examples:

          --During my week off, I plan to visit Mary, a friend from high school;                   Ahmed, a former coworker; Bryce, my study partner from English                     class; and my brother, who lives in Madison.

         --City council representatives from Saint Cloud, Minnesota; Long                       Beach, California; Boulder, Colorado; Tampa Bay, Florida; Portland,               Maine; and Medora, North Dakota will attend the conference.