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When to Use Semicolons

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￼I am a Semicolon; Don't Be Afraid
of Me.
Some people treat semicolons like snakes—afraid to use them, or even speak their name. But if you look closely, you can see that snakes and semicolons are different.
These are semicolons: This is picture of a snake:
;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;
Semicolons aren't bad, and we don't hurt people; in fact, we do a lot of good things.
When Should You Use a Semicolon?

￼The most common use for a semicolon is to connect two closely related sentences. Think of semicolons like bridges.

Imagine if Manhattan had no bridges. It would be a different place, wouldn't it? Or how about if San Francisco and Oakland weren't connected by the bay bridge?

There are three main circumstances when semicolons should be used.

To join two independent clauses that are closely related.
To separate lists that include commas.
To join two clauses using a conjunctive adverb. (besides, however, instead, therefore...)

1. To join two independent clauses that are closely related. Example: Sean rushed to the store to buy a present; he had forgotten it was his wife's birthday. (See how the second clause is closely tied to the first? John’s life depends on that first clause. The second clause explains why John had to rush to the store.)

2. To separate lists that include commas. Example: Sean had thirty minutes to do three things: buy a present for his wife; stop and fill the car with gas, and pick up a bottle of wine; get home and cook dinner before his wife arrived.

3. To join two clauses using a conjunctive adverb. Example: Sean had a lot of things to do; however, he decided to take a shower before doing them.

What You Don't Do With Semicolons

• A semicolon should not be used in place of a colon. It’s not a good substitute, and, despite it’s name association, it doesn’t want to be a colon. Semicolons are perfectly content doing the job they were meant to do.

• A semicolon should not join two unrelated clauses.

Bottom Line: Don't be afraid to use semicolons—just make sure you use them right.
For more tips on writing and publishing, visit my site at www.giacomog.com.
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Published in: Career, Technology, Education
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