Monday, 24 November 2014

How to use a semicolon?

A semicolon is an often misused piece of punctuation but is very simple to use. Take care not to over use a semicolon in your work.


What are the functions of a semicolon within a sentence?

  • To help organise a complicated list
  • To separate two closely related  independent clauses

How to use a semicolon to organise a complicated list?

A semicolon should be used in a sentence to organise complicated lists when one or more of the items contains commas.

The witches and wizards at the conference had come from Scotland, Wales; Cardiff, Ireland; Dublin, and Cornwall.

Not

The witches and wizards at the conference had come from Scotland, Wales, Cardiff, Ireland, Dublin and Cornwall.

How to use a semicolon to narrow the gap between two closely related independent clauses?

The semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses but also to show that the two clauses are related to one another.

Ethel rarely used her broomstick; she was afraid of flying.

To use a semicolon in this way the two clauses must be independent of one another.

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