Semicolons are used to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction. Semicolons aren't interchangeable with commas or periods – they indicate something else entirely.
Let's take a look at some rules for using semicolons correctly.
You Can Use a Semicolon to Connect Related Independent Clauses
Semicolons are used to join related independent clauses where each clause shares a close, logical connection.
Let's break down what that means.
Independent clauses are complete sentences. They could stand by themselves, but the ideas in them are related, so joining them makes sense.
Here's an example:
- I decided to get dessert after dinner; I don't care about watching my weight.
In this example, the two clauses are related. The second clause provides clarification for the first and expands on its ideas.
You Should Delete Your Conjunction When You Use a Semicolon
Semicolons often act like conjunctions. Both join together independent clauses.
That means that using both a semicolon and a conjunction together would be redundant. Whenever you use a semicolon, you should delete the conjunction in the sentence (unless it's a list).
- Incorrect: I went to the dog park; and my friend met me there.
- Correct: I went to the dog park; my friend met me there.
You Can Use Semicolons to Divide Items in a List
Semicolons can be used to separate the items in a list if the items are long or contain internal punctuation.
- On my trip around the world, I went to London, England; Edinburgh, Scotland; Lisbon, Portugal; Casablanca, Morocco; and Nairobi, Kenya.
You Can Use Adverbs With Conjunctive Adverbs
Common conjunctive adverbs include moreover, nevertheless, however, otherwise, therefore, then, finally, likewise, and consequently. It's proper to use a semicolon before a conjunctive adverb.
- I wanted to go out with my friends; however, I had a lot of homework to do.
- She was very tired; nevertheless, she went to work.
Looking for more examples of when to use a semicolon? Check out this article from our friends at The Write Life.