Where and When to Use a Semicolon?

January 2nd, 2021

Reading time about 13 min

Semicolons come halfway from a comma and stand far from being a full stop. Thus their work is neither completely identical with a comma nor with a full stop. Nevertheless, they are as significant as any other punctuation in the written mode of communication.

when to use a semicolon, Use of semicolon

The meaning that the sentences aim to convey depends upon the sentence construction of which punctuations are vital. The entire colon family is quite significant in this aspect.

Where and When to Use a Semicolon?

  • Semicolons are used as connectors. They join two clauses together, similar to a conjunction. When to use a semicolon example: “Life is short; live it to the fullest.”
  • This punctuation separates two independent clauses. However, for connecting more than two clauses, one must replace the semicolons with conjunctions. For example: “Students must remember the lessons: think before you act.”
  • Semicolons are used explicitly before certain words and terms: However, Therefore, For instance, For example, etc. For example: “The cat slept out in the open; however, the dog was not so comfortable.” In this instance, comma and semicolon both are necessary for the sentence to make complete sense.
  • The common confusion is to understand the fine line between using a full stop and a semicolon. Writers are often confused that even when both the sentences are independent, why a semicolon is used instead of a full stop. The answer is that even the sentences are independent, they are closely related to one another. Thus, one must replace the full stop with a semicolon. “Time doesn’t like vegetables; nevertheless, vegetables are good for a healthy diet.”
  • A sentence semicolon effectively replaces a comma when we prepare a list where putting a comma can be misleading and confusing. Semicolons give the list more clarity. For example: “My mother instructed me to pack clothes, some books; her knitting set, sweaters; towels and some food for the journey.” 

Rules of Using A Semicolon:

  • A semicolon carries out the duty of a conjunction in a sentence joining the independent sentences. Thus semicolons are used as a replacement for conjunctions that are frequently used in sentences for connecting two sentences, e.g., and, but, etc.

Writers must avoid using both conjunction and semicolon simultaneously in a sentence for the same purpose. Else, the sentence might be found to be erroneous and might not pass the sentence checkertest.

  • Capitalized words are used right after a full stop. Hence, while using a semicolon, the first word of the second part of the sentence need not be capitalized unnecessarily. The reason being, the second clause is merely a part of the first half and not a separate sentence.

Uses of a Semicolon:

Since the semicolon identifies neither with the duty of a using a comma or a full stop, it has some separate function. Using a semicolon in a sentence indicates a longer pause than a comma. Still, it is less direct than a full stop.

Another work that is assigned to semicolons is to act as conjunction. Semicolon, like the conjunction, often joins two interrelated principal clauses. That means that the group of words before and after the semicolon is complete and can express a whole meaning.

Semicolons act as a coordinating conjunction. Conjunctions typically identify as being two types of coordinating conjunction and subordinating conjunction. While subordinating conjunction joins two relative clauses, one of which is dependent and the other independent, coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses related to one another.

Identifying A Misplaced Semicolon:

  • Academic writing is serious in tone and carries grades. Such writings are carefully scrutinized before submission. Often this process is carried out manually, and at other times proofreading is conducted through online tools.
when to use a semicolon, academic integrity

Sentence checker tools act as a device to identify grammatical errors, including misplaced punctuations. An erroneous content leads to the deduction of marks, and it affects the academic grades.

  • To meet a deadline, students often undertake shortcuts. It includes copying from sources already available in printed or digital media. Using other author’s content without their consent is plagiarism. A content checker quickly detects such plagiarized content. When writers blindly copy other’s work, they have very little understanding of that write-up. Hence, mistakes are imminent. It includes misplaced punctuations. Check a paper for plagiarism to pinpoint punctuation errors in schools and colleges to reduce the grammatical errors.

Know About the Usage of a Colon to Avoid Confusion

When to use a colon or semicolon, this question often baffles the writers. Colons are primarily used for two purposes: for lists and a quotation mark. Using colons in a sentence is about the position of placing the colon.

Ideally, it sits between the things that are referred to and the actual examples. It means the words following the colon further stresses whatever has been already conveyed by the group of words before the colon. For example: “It left us with only two choices: death or accepting defeat.”

It is advisable to use quotation marks while using the exact words of an author or a personality. A colon precedes this quotation mark. In a way, the colon introduces the quoted words in writing.

It also helps the students avoid plagiarism risks since the quotation is a part of the citation that enables them to use others’ content. For example, Grandmother told us: “Patience is a virtue.”

Colons and Semicolons Are Connectors.

People use both colons and semicolons as connectors. How to distinguish when to use a colon as a connector and when to use a semicolon? If both the group of words before and after the connector is independent, we use a semicolon. Even one sentence before or after the connector does not make complete sense; one must replace the semicolon with a colon.

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