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.
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