Two weeks ago, I talked about how to use a com­ma prop­er­ly. I thought I’d take today’s post to quick­ly out­line when you should use the semi­colon, a mis­un­der­stood and under­used punc­tu­a­tion mark.

Here are 5 instances when you should use semi­colons and a cou­ple of exam­ples for each. If you stick to these 5 cir­cum­stances, you may very well become an expert semi­colon user.

1. Separate clauses

  • I live in Leth­bridge; my house is down­town.
  • I like fruit; I hate apple juice.

2. Emphasize relatedness

  • I have a son; I am a father.
  • I ate my veg­eta­bles; I get dessert.

3. Before conjunctions linking complex clauses

  • If I eat all my veg­eta­bles, I get dessert; but if I don’t fin­ish my veg­eta­bles, I’ll miss out on ice cream.

4. Separate items in complex list

  • I like cook­ies and ice cream; apples, bananas, and pineap­ple; and chick­en and sausage.
  • I have lived in Regi­na, Saskatchewan; Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia; and Leth­bridge, Alber­ta.

5. With conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases

  • I have a son; there­fore, I am a father.
  • I didn’t eat my veg­eta­bles; how­ev­er, I still get dessert.

Are you aware of any oth­er legit­i­mate uses of the semi­colon? Put them in the com­ments below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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