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English Composition 2

Semicolons

Semicolons (;) are easy to use correctly, as long as you remember one rule about semicolon use: a semicolon should be used to separate two independent clauses (or complete sentences) that are closely related in meaning.

That's it--that's all that you need to remember to use semicolons correctly.

To help you determine if you are using a semicolon correctly, just ask yourself if a period would be correct if used where the semicolon is used. If so, then you have used the semicolon correctly. If a comma could be used where a semicolon is used, then the semicolon is not used correctly. To some extent, periods and semicolons are interchangeable--in many situations, you can use one or the other. But semicolons and commas are not interchangeable--if you can replace a semicolon with a comma, you have used the semicolon incorrectly.

Semicolons are often misused. Some writers seem to think that semicolons are fancy commas that create longer pauses that commas. This is not true. A semicolons NEVER should be used to try to create a "pause" longer that that achieved by a comma.

(Note: There are some exceptions to these rules of semicolon usage, but they are so rare that they seldom come up in student papers.)

Are semicolons used correctly in the sentences below? Click the number after each sentence to find out.

  1. I had a great weekend; visiting with friends, playing golf, and eating at a nice restaurant.{1}


  2. We went to the beach last weekend; my friends and I stayed in the water almost all day.{2}


  3. I have a lot of work to do this week; however, I hope to finish the work by next weekend.{3}


  4. Next weekend, I plan to go hiking; which is one of my favorite activities.{4}


  5. It might rain next weekend, though; so I might have to stay inside.{5}


  6. I like to spend time outdoors; I can't stand to stay inside.{6}

This page was last updated on June 06, 2013. Copyright Randy Rambo, 2006.