When to Use a Semicolon

When to Use a Semicolon
We are often confused as to when to use a semicolon or a comma. These are the most confusing punctuation marks in English language. But you need not worry, this article will give you more information on the usage of semi colons...
Among all the punctuation marks in English language, the comma, colon and the semicolon are the most misused and misunderstood ones. It is found that many people use these symbols interchangeably, which is incorrect. There are certain fixed rules of grammar and punctuation that help us understand the usage of particular symbol. Here we will see more on when to use a semicolon and colon. Read more on grammar and composition.

When to Use a Semicolon
The semicolon (;) is an important punctuation mark in language for its many applications. We all are aware that a semicolon is used in the place of a comma when a longer pause than a comma is required. However, there are certain conditions to it. The following rules of the usage of semicolon help in understanding when to use a semicolon in writing.

When to Use a Semicolon in a Sentence
The usage of a semicolon in a sentence can be differentiated into two types. Firstly it is used to connect or join two independent (main) clauses. Secondly, it is also used to separate two independent (main) clauses. An independent clause can be defined as a clause or a sentence that can stand by itself as it has a strong meaning. An independent clause is not dependent on the other part if the sentence to complete its meaning. Its exact opposite is the dependent clause which, as its name suggests, is dependent on the other part of the sentence as it does not have a meaning of its own. The following are the applications of a semicolon to connect or join tow independent clauses.

To Connect Two Independent Clauses
Take a look at the following examples as they will help in understanding the use of a semicolon.

E.g.- I am going to the market; I need to buy fruits.

In this sentence, the semicolon connects two independent clauses. Both the parts of the sentences are independent and meaningful. Sometimes in similar sentences, comma is used which is incorrect. One should remember that two independent clauses can either be connected through a semicolon or by conjunctions.

To Separate Two Independent Clauses
Just like a semicolon can join two independent clauses, it can also be used to separate them. Have a look at the following example.

E.g.- John is a doctor; however, he acts in stage plays.

In this example, a transition is used immediately after the semicolon which is then followed by a comma. This is the correct way of separating two independent clauses using a semicolon.

When to Use a Semicolon in a List
Semicolons are most effectively used to differentiate nouns (things, articles, people, places, etc.) in a list. If you are wondering when to use a semicolon instead of a comma, then have a look at the following example.

E.g.- The honorary keynote speakers were Dr. Swaminathan, India; Dr. Rand, United Kingdom; Dr. Brandt, Germany and Dr. Roger, Australia.

If this sentence were to be joined with only commas, the reader as well as the listener is bound to get confused. Therefore, a semicolon is always used in a list when several different items are used together.

This is the answer to your query when to use a semicolon. Although these seem like trivial symbols in writing, they play an important role specially in the professional field. The above mentioned rules are easy to understand, master and put in practice. Keeping these simple things in mind, you can accomplish the art of writing with precision and accuracy!

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