Semi Colon

We use a semi colon to separate items in a list, and to join two independent clauses.

When you use a punctuation mark, you need to put a space after it. Don't use a space before the punctuation mark.

Lists

We use a semi colon to separate items in a list when one of the items already has commas in it.

Each student needs a geometry set that includes a ruler, a compass, and a protractor; a notebook; and two pencils.

This sentence has a list of three items: the geometry set, the notebook, and the pencils. Because the geometry set also has a list with commas in it, we use semi colons to separate the items in the main list.

For simple lists, we separate the items with commas. Learn more about using commas.

Joining Independent Clauses

We can use a semi colon to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction. We use a semi colon to show that the two parts of the sentence are very closely linked. If you write the same thing as two sentences separated by a full stop, they feel less closely linked.

The sun is going down; we won't reach the town before dark.

This sentence has two independent clauses: 'The sun is going down' and 'we won't reach the town before dark'. Notice the semi colon between the two parts of the sentence.

Conjunctions include the words and, or, but, so, yet, for, and nor. To join two independent clauses with a conjunction, you use a comma. Learn more about using commas.

An independent clause contains a complete thought. You could write it as a sentence and it would make sense on its own.

Other Uses

Bullet Points

Semi colons are often used after each item in bullet point list.

Before starting the walk, make sure you have the essentials:

  • water;
  • food;
  • warm clothing;
  • a hat.