Punctuation Rules: How to Use a Semicolon Properly?

What is Semicolon?

The semicolon (;) is one of the most confusing punctuations. It represents a longer pause than a comma but not as complete a stop as a full stop. It helps you to connect two or complex clauses within a sentence. That’s why a semicolon isn’t interchangeable neither with a comma nor a period. By using a semicolon properly, you can make your writing looks more sophisticated.

when to use a semicolon in a sentence

When to use a semicolon in a sentence, via pluspng.com

When to Use a Semicolon in a Sentence?

A semicolon is commonly used to join two independent clauses without using any conjunction, for the example and. Unlike a full stop, you don’t need a capital letter after a semicolon. You can use a capital letter after a semicolon only if the word that comes after it is a proper noun or an acronym.

  • We can go for a vacation after the exams; London is a pretty nice place.
  • There are many great Bollywood stars; Amir Khan is my favorite one.
  • Many people broke the red light; I think obeying the traffic rules is one of the tough things in this country.

Well, if you’re wondering of how to use a semicolon properly, here are the further explanations of semicolon grammar rules that you need to know.

1. Between Independent Clauses

You can use a semicolon to connect two closely related independent clauses. It means the group of words that comes before and after a semicolon should form a complete sentence; the two sentences should share a close and logical connection. Here are the examples of the proper use of semicolon between independent clauses.

  • The clock read 06:30; it was time to go to school.
  • I ordered chicken wings and medium French fries for lunch; life is too short for counting calories.
  • I have eaten nothing since yesterday; you can hear my stomach is rumbling.
  • Dennis has bought a new bag; Andrew has bought a new iPhone.

2. Remove the Conjunction when Using a Semicolon

A semicolon isn’t the only thing that you can use to link two independent clauses. There are also conjunctions such as and, but, and or can do that as well. However, you can’t use a semicolon and a conjunction at the same time. It means when you use a semicolon, you can dismiss the and, but, and or; you don’t need both on a sentence. Here’s a hint, when you use a comma and an and to link the related clauses, think of semicolon as a replacement and.

Here are the proper uses of semicolon by removing the conjunction; both are correct sentences.

  • I saw an eagle, and it was eating a rabbit.
  • I saw an eagle; it was eating a mouse.
  • I’ve invited Diane to come to my party, but she may decide not to come.
  • I’ve invited Diane to come to my party; she may decide not to come.
  • I asked you to stop making so much noise in the midnight, or the neighbours will start complaining.
  • I asked you to stop making so much noise in the midnight; the neighbours will start complaining.

3. Between Items in a List

You can use a semicolon to divide items in a list if at least one of the items includes a comma or contains internal punctuation. Here are the examples of proper use of semicolon between items in a list. Let’s look at the examples of the proper use of semicolon in a serial list.

  • There are new seven wonders of the world: Great Wall, China; Petra, Jordan; Christ the Redeemer, Brazil; Machu Picchu, Peru; Chichen Itza, Mexico; Colosseum, Italy; Taj Mahal, India; Great Pyramid, Egypt.
  • The athletes with the highest medal achievements were Micheal Phelps, with 28; Larisa Latynina, with 18; and Nikolai Andrianov, with 15.
  • There are basically two ways to paint; by conventional painting, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by digital painting, which is more expensive but neat and quick.

4. With Conjunctive Adverbs

When you have a conjunctive adverb linking two independent clauses, you should use a semicolon to separate them. Some common conjunctive adverbs you can use include therefore, thus, consequently, then, finally, likewise, moreover, nevertheless, otherwise, and however. Let’s look at the examples of the proper use of semicolon with conjunctive adverbs.

  • The weather report predicts rainstorm; the event, therefore, has been canceled.
  • I’ll go for a walk and get some fresh air; also, I’ll grab some food.
  • Although twenty years have passed since the flash flood hit this town; indeed, I can still remember everything about it in detail and clearly.
  • The government strongly advised the citizens to take out medical insurance; however, some thought it wasn’t necessary due to their excellent health condition.
  • I think the shoes’ price is quite reasonable; moreover, the brand quality is good.

5. With Other Punctuation Marks

When you have quotation marks or parentheses at the end of first clause; then, you should always place semicolon outside closing quotation marks or parentheses. Here are the examples of the proper use semicolon with other punctuation marks.

  • Donna tried to find the “right words”; none would dissuade her.
  • In the first place of the cutest dog contest was a Chihuahua (a small dog with long hair); it’s his second title.

6. With For Example and Similar Phrases

When you have a word and phrases such as for example, that is, or namely at the end of the sentence to introduce a list of item; then, you should use a semicolon to precede those words or phrases. Let's look the examples of the proper use of semicolon with those word and phrase.

  • Based on the data, E-commerce has grown so fast with up to 7% market share in several countries; for example, China, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and South Korea.
  • The entire state documents here are printed in the two official languages; that is, English and Bahasa Indonesia.
  • Three students who got the highest score were mentioned; namely Sarah, John, and Sylvia.

All right, that’s all our English lesson about when to use semicolon in a sentence and the proper use of it. For more English lessons about basic English grammar, vocabulary, and text genre, you can see it on the index page of ContohText or click on the related categories that we’ve provided.

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