Getting to Know Your Semicolon


The Essentials:

The semicolon is used to connect independent clauses, which include a subject and a verb, that are closely related to one another. Semicolons can also separate items in a list when those items include commas.

The Specifics:

Use a semicolon between closely related independent clauses not joined with a coordinating conjunction.
Example: Independent clauses joined with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so):

I love watching any movie, but my favorite movies involve space and robots.

Example: Independent clauses joined with a semi-colon instead of a coordinating conjunction:

I love watching any movie; my favorite movies involve space and robots.

A comma splice occurs when there is no coordinating conjunction in between independent clauses. Sometimes a comma splice can be corrected by the use of a semicolon instead of adding a coordinating conjunction.
Examples:

Splice: People have feelings, robots have logic.

Corrected Sentence: People have feelings; robots have logic.

Use a semicolon between independent clauses linked with a transitional expression. Transitional expressions include conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases.
Example (Conjunctive Adverb):

I do love going to the movies; however, I can’t afford to go every weekend.

Example (Transitional Phrases):

I warned people the robot overlords were coming; in fact, I even put up posters all over campus.

Use a semicolon between items in a series containing internal punctuation.
Example:

When I go to the moon, I will pack my warm, fuzzy slippers; a pair of large, green space goggles; and my favorite, pocket-sized action figure.


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