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When To Use Colons And Semi-Colons

Updated on May 26, 2013

Colon Or Semi-Colon?

What Is The Difference?

Holding down the <shift> key would allow you to input a colon; releasing it would allow for the semi-colon. Apart from these physical differences, the colon is often used to introduce a list of items, while the semicolon is often used to join together two independent clauses.

The Colon

The colon consists of two dots, one above the other.

It is often used to introduce a list of items. For example:

  • A perfect marriage requires many ingredients: love and trust are amongst the most important.

A colon can also be used to introduce a definition, statement or explanation.

  • I'll tell you what I'm going to do: I'm going to drink like there's no tomorrow!
  • Boar (noun): the male of any of several mammals (such as a guinea pig).

The Semi-Colon

The semi-colon consists of a comma with a dot above it. You can think of it as just a break in a sentence that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a full stop.

Semi-colons can be used to join together two independent clauses and each clause could be individual sentences.

For example:

  • Husband and wife couldn't be more different; Mr Smith drives a Ferrari whereas Mrs Smith drives a Mini.
  • The British call it football; the Americans call it soccer


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