The semicolon (;) is the most commonly misused punctuation mark. Because it is a bit unusual, a combination of a period and a comma, it is easy to shy away from using it. One basic rule will help you conquer your semicolon phobia: a semicolon should be used to separate two independent clauses (or complete sentences) that are closely related in meaning. Below are a few examples and explanations about semicolon use.

Semicolons & Independent Clauses
A semicolon is used to join two or more independent clauses that are not connected with a coordination conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so). Simply said, each of the clauses could stand alone as a separate sentence.


I am going home; I intend to stay there.
It rained this afternoon; we managed to have our picnic anyway.

Note: If you put a comma where that semicolon is, you will have committed a comma splice! Be careful that the second clause is really a complete sentence.

Semicolons & Conjunctive Adverbs
A semicolon is used before a conjunctive adverb (also, besides, for example, however, in addition, instead, meanwhile, then, and therefore) when the word connects two independent clauses in a compound sentence. A comma should follow the adverb in this case.


I am going to the mall; moreover, I intend to stay there until it closes.
It rained this afternoon; however, we managed to have our picnic anyway.

Semicolons & Long Lists
A semicolon is used to separate groups of words that already contain commas. ( When a semicolon is used this way, it is sometimes referred to as a super comma)


We visited Salem, Oregon; Quito, Ecuador; and Toole, Utah.

Her favorite players are Philip Rivers, a quarterback; Dwight Freeney, a defensive end; and Peyton Manning, another quarterback.

My husband needed to remember our anniversary, 11 June 1996; the date we first met, April 12, 1996; and my birthday, December 10, 1971.

As in the examples above, citing places, dates, and people's names with descriptions, are three very common situations where you'll see the super-comma usage.

As a review, link to Grammar Girl: How to Use Semicolons HERE. This is a short pod-cast about semicolon use. The text of this pod-cast is also included. This link will open up in a new window for easy navigation.

Last modified: Thursday, 29 November 2012, 12:22 PM