A semicolon is mostly used to link two independent clauses which are closely related in thought. Semicolons separate two main clauses which are closely related to each other. Yet, they cannot stand on their own as complete sentences.
By Arundathie Abeysinghe
Lecturer in English
International Aviation Academy
SriLankan AirlinesArundathie Abeysinghe 1
Indicates a major division in a sentence where there
is a more distinct separation between clauses or items
on a list than is indicated by a comma
Used to connect two thoughts or ideas which are
Arundathie Abeysinghe 2
Use a semicolon to separate independent clauses
joined without a conjunction
e.g. Seven students started the research project; only
four completed it.
The time is over; please stop writing.
Arundathie Abeysinghe 3
To separate independent clauses connected with a
Follow the adverb with a comma
e.g. Our coffee tables arrived after a week; consequently,
our requests are late.
Conjunctive adverb – An adverb that joins
Arundathie Abeysinghe 4
Use a semicolon to separate items in a series if the
items contain commas
e.g. The dates we are considering for evaluations are
Tuesday, September 18; Thursday, November 20; or
Friday, December 10.
Arundathie Abeysinghe 5
Use a semicolon before introductory words
e.g.however, namely, therefore, for instance etc.
e.g. It rained heavily in the morning; however, they
managed to climb the mountain.
We couldn't reach our destination before dark;
therefore, we decided to stay in a hotel for the night.
Arundathie Abeysinghe 6
To separate independent clauses that contain commas
even if the clauses are joined by a conjunction
A semicolon helps the reader to see the break in
e.g. Students needed library facilities, updated course
materials, tutoring ; but since none of these were
available, they did not perform well at the
Arundathie Abeysinghe 7
Avoid using a semicolon when a comma is needed:
Incorrect: The handbag is green; but not new.
Correct: The handbag is green, but not new.
Incorrect: Because the perfume is strong; I don’t like
Correct: Because the perfume is strong, I don’t like it.
Arundathie Abeysinghe 8