Semicolons

Semicolons provide medium separation between ideas and can help vary your sentence structure or call attention to how closely two sentences are linked.

 

Best known for its utility in making winky faces, the semicolon can also be a useful grammatical tool. We know what you're thinking: "They sound pretty useless… except when I'm trying to send a flirty text." Trust us on this one. The semicolon can help you out in areas other than your love life.

Semicolons have three main uses:

1. Use a semicolon to separate two independent clauses that are closely related. The important part is that both sides of the semicolon should be able to stand alone as complete sentences.

I love Jane and Andre as a couple; I'm so glad they're back together.

2. Unleash the mighty semicolon when using a conjunctive adverb to join two main clauses. Words such as however, therefore, and indeed are great transitional words, but if you use them without the semicolon, you'll end up with a run-on sentence.

The president of the bank was very cordial; however, he wouldn't hand over all of the money when I asked for it.

3. Use a pack of semicolons to make a bunch of competing commas more manageable and easy to understand.

Adele had to reschedule concerts in Indianapolis, Indiana; Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Little Rock, Arkansas due to Laryngitis.

 

Examples

"Antarctica isn't just the coldest place on Earth; it's also the driest."

In Antarctica's Dry Valleys region, it hasn't rained in over 2 million years. Seriously. In this example, the semicolon is used to join two complete sentences that are very closely related in idea.

"The cafeteria offered a choice of ham, turkey, or salami sandwiches; potato chips, French fries, or mixed greens; and milk, soda, or juice."

This example makes us wish we hadn't skipped lunch. Here, semicolons are used to separate the list of various menu options by type. This makes the information much easier for the reader to digest. Hey-o!

"Tulsa's parking problem must be solved; otherwise, people will just start leaving their cars on the sidewalk."

And you thought it was hard trying to avoid cracks in the sidewalk. In this sentence, the semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses joined by the conjunctive adverb otherwise.