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Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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Use a semicolon to join two sentences or to punctuate a series or list of appositives that already includes commas.

The semicolon offers a "higher" form of punctuation than the comma or dash. Unlike commas or dashes, the semicolon can correctly be used to separate sentences. If readers tend to pause for a half-second when they come to a comma, they pause for three-quarters of a second when they reach a semicolon. Writers use semicolons two major ways.

Use a Semicolon to Join Two Sentences

You can show that ideas are closely related by using a semicolon rather than a period between them.

  • The secretary's fingers burned across the typewriter; the financial statements would be picked up by the client in one hour.
  • The question, though, is not economics; it is professional objectivity.
  • Breast cancer used to be the biggest killer for women; now it's lung cancer.

Use a Semicolon to Punctuate a Series or List of Appositives That Already Includes Commas

When elements in a series require internal commas to ensure clarity, then semicolons must be used to separate those elements:

  • A perfect vacation would be long, relaxing, and cheap; include personable, sweet, flexible people; and make everything else seem trivial.
  • The delegates were from Sacramento, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Providence, Rhode Island; and Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • A good proofreader must have good grammar, punctuation, and spelling skills; must like to read; and must have patience.

Note, however, that you are wise to avoid using unnecessary semicolons. Experienced writers and readers would prefer the second sentence because it avoids self-conscious punctuation.

  • He was dressed in white pants; a white, Mexican wedding shirt; and sandals.
  • He was dressed in a white, Mexican wedding shirt, white pants, and sandals.
Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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