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Tips for Using Semi-Colons
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Tips for Using Semi-Colons


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  • 1. The semicolon
    Rules to make your writing more effective
  • 2. ;
    Semicolons are often mistakenly used in place of commas or periods. They are much like a period, but whereas a period keeps two independent clauses apart and turns them into separate sentences, a semicolon joins them to show a close connection.
  • 3. Compare:
    I helped the committee all I could. I even searched the back issues of the paper to find evidence.
    I helped the committee all I could; I even searched the back issues of the paper to find evidence.
    I helped the committee all I could,and I even searched the back issues of the paper to find evidence.
    All three examples are correct.
    The semicolon emphasizes a close relationship between the two independent clauses.
  • 4. Rule 1
    Place a semicolon between two sentences when a conjunction has been omitted. (Conjunctions are words like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. The acronym FANBOYS makes it easy to remember them.)
    For example, "I have paid the bill, so my cable will be reconnected tomorrow" can be changed to "I have paid the bill; my cable will be reconnected tomorrow."
  • 5. Rule 2
    Link two independent clauses or two sentences joined by a conjunction with a semicolon.
    The following sentence is an example of this usage: "That night the timber wolf appeared to revive; but when we woke in the morning, full of hope that we had saved it, we were saddened to find its body at the edge of the clearing."
    It would be perfectly correct to use a comma before but in this
    example; the semicolon, however, creates a stronger pause.
    Also, because there are already two commas in the second
    clause, a semicolon in desirable, since it indicates the main
    break in the sentence.
  • 6. Rule 3
    Use a semicolon before introductory or transition words such as however, for example, in addition, otherwise, therefore, etc. when they come before a complete sentence.
    You could write, "I would go with you; however, I have a doctor's appointment at that time."
  • 7. Rule 4
    Separate items in a series with a semicolon when the items are lengthy or contain commas.
    For example, "I have lived in Memphis, Tennessee; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Canton, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."
  • 8. Rule 5
    When dealing with quotations, always place semicolons outside the quotation mark.
    He asked me to be quiet and mind my “atrocious manners”; I told him I'd say what I pleased.
  • 9. Add semicolons to the following sentences:
    It is raining outside I will bring my umbrella with me.
    Hopefully, the weather will change soon otherwise, the whole summer will go by without the sun shining.
    Marx did not believe that "a single nation should have a single leader" nevertheless, he became a leader singled out.
  • 10. Practice
    We visited Pago Pago, Western Samoa Curitiba, Brazil and St. George, Utah.
    When I eat alone, I leave a mess but that's not the worst of it.