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Understanding the Semicolon

semi colon joke


“Semicolon: {n}. the punctuation mark (;) used to indicate a major division in a sentence where a more distinct separation is felt between Clauses or items of a list than is indicated by a comma.”

The Random House College Dictionary



Two Main Uses of the Semicolon

1. Semicolons connect two complete and completely related sentences:

When you do not have a complete sentence (containing both a noun/subject and a verb/predicate) on each side of a semicolon, then you cannot use a semicolon. Another way of looking at this is to remember that any place you can put a period, you can put a semicolon.


A semicolon is chosen over a period only when the sentences are related in thought. When you use a semicolon to join two related sentences no connecting words are used (i.e., coordinating conjunctions or FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Instead of a semicolon, you may choose to use a comma—along with a coordinating conjunction—to join two related sentences.

Examples of a semicolon used to join two related sentences: I am going home; I intend to stay there. It rained during the afternoon; we managed to have our picnic anyway.

NOTE: Long connecting words, or conjunctive adverbs (however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise, nevertheless, thus), can be used after a semicolon to place emphasis on the clause following the semicolon. When used in this manner, these connecting words are followed by a comma.

I am going home; moreover, I intend to stay there.
It rained during the afternoon; however , we managed to have our picnic anyway.

2. To separate elements in a series:

A comma is ordinarily placed after every item in a series.semi colon joke

The song seemed simultaneously sardonic, satirical, and sweet.
But…a semicolon is used in place of the comma in certain instances for clarity, particularly if the sentence is long and complex.

For our party, we ordered food from Las Margaritas, a restaurant that serves Mexican food; Johnny’s Wok, which serves Chinese food; and Café Fresco, a gourmet restaurant that, offers Northwest cuisine with some vegetarian items.


[ . ] A period is used to show independence of sentences.

[ ; ] A semicolon is used to show sentences are related in thought.

[ , ] A comma may also be used—along with a coordinating conjunction—to show sentences are related in thought

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