What is a semicolon?
A semicolon is a punctuation mark used to separate closely-related independent clauses. Stronger than a comma, a semicolon does not require the use of a coordinating conjunction.
How should semicolons be used?
- Use a semicolon to link two closely-related independent clauses.
- Homelessness is a problem that has evaded resolution; despite the heroic efforts of many concerned citizens, there are still thousands left on the streets.
- Use semicolons to separate items in a list that contain other punctuation.
- Concerned citizens can protect the environment by driving a fuel efficient car, such as a hybrid; recycling glass, plastic, and paper; and buying products with less packaging material.
- Use a semicolon to link two independent clauses that have a transitional expression between them.
- Sending a text message can cause a driver to take his eyes off the road; therefore, he may choose to put his cell phone in the trunk.
Avoid misuse of semicolons
- A semicolon should not be used to introduce a list (of three items or more); use a colon instead.
- Do not use a semicolon to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause; use a comma instead.
- Do not follow a semicolon with a coordinating conjunction; use a comma instead.