Semicolons

This article focuses on the use of semicolons in complex sentences

Many students totally avoid semicolons  because they’ve never learnt about them; others use them wrongly, often confusing them with commas. Just take a look at that last sentence again:

Some students avoid them totally because they don’t know about them; others use them wrongly, often confusing them with commas.

The most common use of a semicolon is to join up two very closely related ideas which are independent clauses. Listen carefully - the semicolon could be replaced by a full stop and the sentences still make sense. So the test for the use of a semicolon is to look at the two parts of the sentence and ask yourself if they would make good sentences if they were separated. If we separate this sentence:

Some students avoid them totally because they don’t know about them; others use them wrongly, often confusing them with commas.

into two separate sentences we get:

Some students avoid them totally because they don’t know about them. Others use them wrongly, often confusing them with commas.

Do these sentences make grammatical sense? Yes! You might think why not just have two sentences without a semicolon! Well, you could! But it is better style to use a semicolon and join up the two sentences to make one longer one.

So when you have two separate sentences talking about the same idea join them up with a semicolon and get extra marks for good style!

Read some more about semicolons on this page from the University of Wisconsin Madison here.

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