How To Use A Semicolon

What is a semicolon?

A semicolon looks like a period and comma combined, like this ;


When should one use a semicolon?

A semicolon is used to separate two independent (can stand alone) sentences.

  • Example: Julie passed her English test; she failed her math test.

In this example, Julie passed her English test and she failed her math test are two complete thoughts, but since both sentences are talking about the same person, a semicolon can be used to separate them in order to avoid a run-on sentence.

Let’s look at some more examples.

  • Lindsay loves cupcakes; lisa does not like cupcakes.

Here the two sentences are separated because they are two complete toughts, but they are joined together with a semicolon because they are related and talking about the same topic (cupcakes).

  • I like mocha coffee; my mom likes caramel coffee.

Once again the sentences are related but two complete thoughts, so a semicolon is used.


Semicolons are also used like a comma to separate a list of items.

  • Example: Leslie vacationed in Miami, Florida; San Diego, California; and El Paso, Texas.

Semicolons are used in the sentence to separate each place Leslie traveled in order to make the sentence less confusing.

Here is another example:

  • Diane, our boss, is out of the office today; Julie, her assistant, will be in charge.

In this example, a semicolon is used to separate the two sentences to make the sentence more clear and easy to read since commas are involved.