What Are Semicolons? (with Examples)A semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark used:
(1) in complex lists
(2) when a slight break is preferable to new sentence, and
(3) before conjunctions (e.g., and, or, but) in certain circumstances.
When to Use Semicolons (Overview)Below is an overview on when to use semicolons.
(1) Use semicolons in complex lists (i.e., when the list items themselves contain commas).
Semicolons can be used to outrank any commas which appear in list items.
- The dinner guests will be Lord Loxley, aged 91; Lady Loxley, aged 41; and Master Loxley, aged 42
- Lord Loxley, aged 91
- Lady Loxley, aged 41
- Master Loxley, aged 42
Not all list items have to have commas to justify using semicolons. Only one does. For example:
- Lord Loxley, aged 91; Lady Loxley; and Master Loxley
(3) You can use a semicolon before a conjunction
Often two sentences are merged into one using a coordinate conjunction (a word like and, or, but). For example:
- Lee loves pies. He loves cakes.
- Lee loves pies, and he loves cakes. (The conjunction and is used to merge the sentences into one. When using a conjunction for this purpose, use a comma before the conjunction.)
- With a fridge full of cheese-and-onion pies, Lee obviously loves pies; but he prefers, from what I have seen, Eccles cakes.
WHAT IS PUNCTUATION?
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See AlsoMuch more about using semicolons What is punctuation? What are apostrophes? What are colons? What are commas? What are dashes? What is ellipsis? What are exclamation marks? What are hyphens? What is a full stop / period? What are parentheses (i.e., brackets)? What are questions marks? What are quotation marks? What are semicolons?
Glossary of grammatical terms