Grammar

How To Use Semicolons

One thing I come across on a regular basis is the abuse of the poor semicolon.

Reasons to use a semicolon are:

  • Reduce the number of short sentences in a paragraph.
  • Emphasise the relationship between two clauses.
  • Introducing a list where commas will confuse the reader.

A golden rule to remember when using a semicolon is that it is used to separate related things that would still make sense on their own. An example would be…

CorrectThe temperature was freezing; John felt cold.

The above would make just as much sense if a period were used. Don’t fall into the trap of using a semicolon in place of a comma – they are not interchangeable.

WrongThe temperature was freezing; and John felt cold.

Never use capitals after a semicolon – unless you’re using a proper noun.

WrongI think we’ll work well together; We have the same attitude.

CorrectI think we’ll work well together; we have the same attitude.

You can’t use semicolons when there is an initial dependent clause.

WrongDespite the sunshine; it was cold.

CorrectDespite the sunshine, it was cold.

 

If you have any questions (or suggestions), then please leave a comment or drop me a line using the Contact Form.

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