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Semicolon Use and Rules With Exercises
Semicolons are one of those punctuation marks that are often confusing to writers. The tend to either be underused or overused. Using a semicolon correctly is relatively simple and easy. Correct placement can give your writing clarity and depth.
Between Two Sentences
Semicolons are most commonly used between two full sentences (also known as independent clauses) that share a similar or progressive meaning. Though the two sentences could stand on their own, semicolons help the reader to understand their connection.
Example: Mary went to bed early; she was very tired.
In this sentence, the semicolon connected the two shorter sentences that contained progressive meaning. Mary went to bed early, and the reason she did this was because of her tiredness.
Use a semicolon this way only if you have two full sentences and only if the use of the semicolon helps the reader connect and understand the meaning.
Another way to use a semicolon is when you have connecting transition words and phrases such as therefor, however, actually and on the other hand.
If the transition word is in the middle of the sentence and it is connecting the two sentences, then a semicolon is used to signal the end of the first sentence and the beginning of the next.
Let's take our first sentence and add a transition.
Example: Mary went to bed early; actually, she was very tired.
The difference between this example and the first one is that we added a transition word and a comma after the connecting semicolon.
List With Phrases That Use Commas
The last usage of semicolons is for separating a list in a sentence where the list is a series of multiple-word phrases that have commas in them. In this case, you can't use commas to separate the items.
Example: There are many jobs available in town: carpentry, if you are good with your hands; accounting, if you are good with numbers; or teaching, if you enjoy working with children.
In this case, trying to separate the list with the usual commas would confuse the reader since there are already commas present in the original list of jobs. Each separate job is separated by semicolons, making it easier to read.
Don't be afraid to use semicolons; a properly placed one can be impressive.
Add semicolons to each of these sentences to make them correct.
The dog was lost he could not locate his owner.
Be sure to buy milk at the store however, don't forget to bring me the change.
She thought the cat was smart the cat thought she was an idiot,
There are many reasons people enjoy watching movies including: the beautiful, exciting plots the action, adventure, and romance and the escape from harsh, everyday reality.
He wanted to be a writer alas, he was unable to fulfill his dream.
Answers are at the bottom of the article!
Answers to Test Your Knowledge of Semicolons
The dog was lost; he could not locate his owner.
Be sure to buy milk at the store; however, don't forget to bring me the change.
She thought the cat was smart; the cat thought she was an idiot,
There are many reasons people enjoy watching movies including: the beautiful, exciting plots; the action, adventure, and romance; and the escape from harsh, everyday reality.
He wanted to be a writer; alas, he was unable to fulfill his dream.