|Grammatically Correct 8/10/04
A weekly grammar tip created by Academic Center Peer Writing Tutors.
University of Houston-Victoria
3007 N. Ben Wilson
Victoria, TX 77901
|Using Semicolons Correctly
by Shawn Brett
|When used appropriately, a semicolon is a clever way
of engaging a reader in the development of your ideas.
Use semicolons to separate two closely related independent clauses (complete ideas/sentences). A semicolon is stronger than a comma, but not quite as strong as a period. Coordinating conjunctions are generally not used if a semicolon is present. The pattern for this type of usage is [complete sentence + ; + complete sentence].
Ex: Twelve workers started the project; only five remain.
**EXCEPTION: There may be a situation in which a semicolon can clarify a sentence even if the independent clauses are joined with a conjunction. This choice is usually made if one or both of the clauses contain commas.
Ex: When I eat alone, I leave a mess; but that's not the worst of it.
Use a semicolon when connecting two independent clauses that have a conjunctive adverb (transition word) between them. The pattern for this type of usage is [complete sentence + ; + conjunctive adverb (transition) + , + complete sentence].
Ex: The final exam is expected to be very difficult; therefore, you should spend a few extra hours studying.
Use a semicolon as a “super comma” to separate items in a list whose individual elements contain commas.
Ex: My brothers were born on November 10, 1946; December 7, 1947; and October 31, 1950.
Ex: His family has lived in Austin, Texas; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Denver, Colorado.
For additional information on semicolons, visit
the Academic Center handout Using
|Recommended Grammar Website of the Week
by Shawn Brett
|In addition to our own website, this week we recommend Grammar
Bytes. This website offers interactive exercises to help you test yourself
in the understanding of key concepts. There are also tips, rules, and definitions
to common grammar terms.
Visit Grammar Bytes at http://www.chompchomp.com/
|Test Your Knowledge
by Shawn Brett
|Test your understanding of semicolon use by correcting the
1. It rained heavily during the afternoon, however, we managed to have our picnic anyway.
2. He went outside to check the mail; but someone had already taken it from the mailbox.
3. Today we will discuss semicolons, including rules for when to use them and when not to use them and examples, review the colon and its functions, and complete an in-class exercise covering semi-colons, colons, and commas.
1. It rained heavily during the afternoon; however, we managed to have our picnic anyway.
2. He went outside to check the mail, but someone had already taken it from the mailbox.
3. Today we will discuss semicolons, including rules for when to use
them and when not to use them and examples; review the colon and its
functions; and complete an in-class exercise covering semicolons, colons,
Comments about this newsletter should be directed to Summer Leibensperger, firstname.lastname@example.org.