Semicolon: Usage and Meaning

Do semicolons confuse you?

I hope the answer is yes, because they really confuse me and I was hoping I’m not the only one.  So, finally, after getting tired of checking every time I used a semicolon, I decided to make a list of the rules once and for all.

Here are the rules:

Rule 1) A semicolon can replace a period if you want to reduce the gap between two closely related sentences.

I have an exam tomorrow; I cannot stay up late.

Rule 2) Use a semicolon before words such as namely, therefore, however, for example, for instance, etc., when they introduce a complete sentence.

You can donate anything; however, there is a shortage of packed food.

Rule 3) Use a semicolon to separate units of a series when one or more of the units contain commas.

The meeting involved Tom Mathews, director; Helen D’souza, associate director; Rahman Ahmed, creative head; and others.

Rule 4) A semicolon may be used between independent clauses  joined by  connectors like and, but, or, nor, etc., when one or more commas appear in the first clause.

When I finish my work, and I will soon, I’ll be happy to come with you; and that is a promise.

Rule 5) Do not capitalize words after a semicolon.

Incorrect: I am here; You are there.

Correct: I am here; you are there.

Now that you know the rules, use the semicolon freely but wisely!





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