Rhetoric and Composition/Semicolons
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A semicolon introduces a pause greater than that of a comma but less than that of a period.
- To Clarify a Series
- Semicolons separate elements of a series when the items are long or when individual segments contain material that also must be set off by commas.
- Example: She leaves a son, Mike Nach, of Arizona; a daughter, Emily Rosa, of Colorado; and a sister, Sara Evans, of Minnesota.
- To Link Independent Clauses
- A semicolon joins two independent clauses within one a sentence without the use of a coordinating conjunction.
- Example: The horse was due for an immunization; the veterinarian administered one today.
- To Set Off a Conjunctive Adverb
- Semicolons are used, along with a comma, to set off conjunctive adverbs. A conjunctive adverb is a modifier that describes a relationship between ideas in two clauses. Some common conjunctive adverbs are "however," "indeed," "consequently," etc.
- Example: I like pepperoni; however, today I ordered Canadian bacon on my pizza.
- Placement with Quotes
- Semicolons should always appear outside quotation marks.
- Example: Marcus often says that "people should remain true to their faith"; however, he is not a man of faith.
Some examples of improper use of the semicolon:
- Between a subordinate clause and the rest of the sentence. Example: Unless you are coming home before your curfew; don't bother coming home.
- Between an appositive and the word to which it refers. Example: My favorite animal is a parakeet; a type of bird.
- To introduce a list. Example: I own these cars; a Dodge Stealth, an Acura RSX, and a Geo Storm.