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The Semicolon

 

Think of the semicolon as a combination of a period and a comma--it really ought to be called a "semiperiod."

You can use it as a "soft period" to combine two sentences, or as a "hard comma" where one is needed.

 

Here are the details:

 

Rules

Rule 1: Use the semicolon instead of a period to link two complete sentences together

without using a conjunction.

           Example: Instead of:

            I never really liked that cat much because it always hissed at me.

            You can write:

            I never really liked that cat much; it always hissed at me.

 

Rule 2: Use a comma or a semicolon before introductory words like namely, for instance,

that is, for example, e.g.

Example: For dinner, we are having lots of food; namely, potatoes, chicken,

broccoli, cranberry sauce.

          

Rule 3: If the units of a list already contain commas, separate them using a semicolon.

           Example: In the past year he has lived in Saratoga, New York; Boise, Idaho; Little

Rock, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Common Mistakes

Separating a dependent clause and an independent clause

                     Incorrect: While Doug is a good soccer player; he is even better at tennis

                     Correct: While Doug is a good soccer player, he is even better at tennis.

Using a semicolon to introduce a list (confused with a colon)

Incorrect: When camping you should pack the following; tent, flashlight,

           food, matches, bug spray.

Correct: When camping you should pack the following: tent, flashlight,

           food, matches, bug spray.

 

Practice

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/interact/g_commacompEX1.html

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/interact/g_commacompEX2.html

 

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