Rhetoric and Composition/Semicolons

Use edit

A semicolon introduces a pause greater than that of a comma but less than that of a period. This is a semicolon: ;

To Clarify a Series
Semicolons separate elements of a series when the items are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.
  • Example: She leaves a son, Mike Nach, of Arizona; a daughter, Emily Rosa, of Colorado; and a sister, Sara Evans, of Minnesota.
To Link Independent Clauses
A semicolon joins two independent clauses within one a sentence without the use of a coordinating conjunction.
  • Example: The horse was due for an immunization; the veterinarian administered one today.
A semicolon may also be used if there is a Conjunctive adverb in the sentence.
  • Example: “I must go grocery shopping; however, I must pick up the dry cleaning today.”
Placement with Quotes
Semicolons should always appear outside quotation marks.
  • Example: Marcus often says that "people should remain true to their faith"; however, he is not a man of faith.

Common Misuses edit

Some examples of improper use of the semicolon:

  • Between a subordinate clause and the rest of the sentence. Example: Unless you are coming home before your curfew; don't bother coming home.
  • Between an appositive and the word to which it refers. Example: My favorite animal is a parakeet; a type of bird.
  • To introduce a list. Example: I own these cars; a Dodge Stealth, an Acura RSX, and a Geo Storm.

Commas · Colons