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.
Was this writing tip helpful?
If you found this writing post helpful, sign up for more writing tips delivered to your inbox. I promise, I won’t email you more than once per month.