Using Semicolons

Use a Semicolon to Link Closely Related Statements

Many writers avoid using semicolons because they are not sure when they are appropriate.

A semicolon is used to link two closely related facts or concepts.

First Attempt Revised
  • Maria quit her job; she thought about it a lot and knew she made the right decision.

Notice how the semicolon links Maria’s actions in the first short declarative sentence with her thought process revealed by the two short declarative statements that followed.

Let’s review another example where the semicolon helps connect short declarative sentences.

First Attempt

Again, we are confronted with short declarative sentences Opens in new window. Therefore, we can use a semicolon to combine the short sentences into one flowing sentence.

Revised
  • Matt is the best speaker in the school; he is the leader on the speech and debate team.

Let the Comma and Semicolon join Forces

Choppy writing can result from repeated phrases. Many writers, by repeating certain parts of sentences to provide the reader with facts or opinions, end up with a series of choppy, repetitious sentences.

Letting the comma and semicolon join forces frees your writing from repetitious wording by using a semicolon to link the repetitious short sentences and a comma to replace the repeating words.

The following example shows the technique’s method for condensing and clarifying repetitious sentences.

First Attempt

Use a semicolon and a comma to combine the choppy sentences into a single sentence without losing any information.

Revised
  • John elected to attend Stanford; Mary, Harvard.

Notice how the repetitious words, elected to attend, in the second sentence were eliminated.