Semicolons

February 24th, 2022 in Grammar by April Michelle Davis 0

Semicolons are useful signals that help readers negotiate the highway of English. If the period is a red light (stop for a while), and the comma is a flashing yellow light (slow down briefly), the semicolon is a flashing red light.

More specifically, the semicolon is useful in four situations:

  1. Uniting: When you want to show that two complete thoughts are closely connected, but you don’t want to use a conjunction, you can join them with a semicolon.
  2. Pausing: Even when you use a conjunction between two complete thoughts, you sometimes want the reader to pause a bit longer, so you place a semicolon before the conjunction.
  3. Separating: When using conjunctive adverbs, you should separate these from the preceding clause with a semicolon. (Conjunctive adverbs include “therefore,” “accordingly,” “however,” “nevertheless,” “besides,” “consequently,” “moreover,” “thus,” “then,” “hence,” and “indeed.”)
  4. Clarifying: When you are listing items in a series and some of those items contain internal commas, you can avoid confusion by separating the items with a semicolon.

 

Try It!

Insert semicolons into the following sentences where appropriate.

  1. My favorite places to visit are Richmond, Virginia, Washington, DC, and, Las Vegas, Nevada.2. He knew he could punish his daughter, but he just could not do it.

    3. The park was in chaos, the looters had destroyed the playground.

    4. Cameron was a cutie, he had the best smile that brightened everyone’s day.

    5. I need a pencil, some paper, and a ruler, but I won’t need them until tomorrow.

 

Answers:

  1. My favorite places to visit are Richmond, Virginia; Washington, DC; and, Las Vegas, Nevada.
  2. He knew he could punish his daughter; but he just could not do it.3. The park was in chaos; the looters had destroyed the playground.

    4. Cameron was a cutie; he had the best smile that brightened everyone’s day.

  3. I need a pencil, some paper, and a ruler; but I won’t need them until tomorrow.