how to use a semicolon

How to Use a Semicolon

You may be wondering what a semicolon is and how to use a semicolon. Well, the semicolon is a punctuation mark that is used to indicate the different types of syntactic or semantic relationship that can be established between different linguistic units. It is represented by a comma above which a period (;) is placed.

The semicolon is a sign for whose use the subjectivity of the author intervenes to a large extent, since, on occasion, it may well be replaced by the period, the colon or the comma.

Since it has the function of separating basic textual units, the semicolon is considered a main delimiter sign, such as the period, the comma or the two points.

Mainly, when talking about semicolon use, it can be used in two ways:

To rank the information, it clarifies the relationships between the elements of the text.
To indicate the semantic relationship that the author establishes between the linguistic units, that is, the degree of dependence or relevance between them.
The semicolon is written attached to the word or sign that precedes it and separated by a space of the word or sign that appears below.

Semicolon Meaning

When trying to figure out the meaning of semicolon, you have to relate it to other punctuation. There are others, such as question marks (?), Colon (:), exclamation marks (!), And so on. They all operate on the same basis and exist to make writing a much richer and more precise language.

A simile that I love to explain the difference between these three elements is musical language. The comma would be equivalent to a eighth note, which is equivalent to half time, the semicolon would be equivalent to a black one, since it is equivalent to one time. While the point would be a white one, which is equivalent to two times.

How to use a semicolon correctly

how to use a semicolon

The word that follows the semicolon is usually lowercase, except in very specific cases. It indicates a pause greater than that of the comma but less than the one marked by the period.

Therefore, when using a semicolon correctly, the first word that follows the semicolon must always be written in lower case. It has a high degree of subjectivity in its use since it can be replaced by a semicolon or a comma.

It is used to separate two or more elements of a sentence if they already include commas. Example: the pants will be gray; the White shirt; the shoes, black; and the jacket, blue.
Preceding conjunctions and adversative phrases as therefore, therefore, though, more, but, nevertheless, … if the sentences have a certain length. Example: Sales rose throughout the quarter; however, the final balance was not positive.
To separate syntactically independent sentences that have a close semantic relationship with each other. Example: We will have to stop production; Supplies have not arrived.

Semicolon Examples

Below are a few semicolon examples of how to use semicolons in sentences.

In juxtaposed sentences
The semicolon is used to separate independent sentences that are part of the same statement and that complement each other from an informational point of view.

For example:

Do not go; I’m not done with you yet.
You have searched all possible alternatives; There is nothing to reproach.
It is not worth going on foot; we are far.
In coordinated sentences
The semicolon can be used to separate grammatically equivalent members from the coordinated copulative, disjunctive and adversative structures.

In coordinated copulative and disjunctive sentences
For coordinated copulative and disjunctive sentences, the semicolon is used to separate members that include commas or that have a considerable length.

For example:


Garcia, the director of the analysis department came to the meeting; Vallejo, in charge of administration; Miranda, who carries internal communications, and López, who served as secretary.

Each team will be dedicated to different tasks: the red ones, to gather information; whites, to collect samples, and blues, to make a photographic record of everything.


Well, my esteemed Mr. Repórter of the Agency SIN if he still lives: there were others. Rafael Serrano Camargo, for example, who told it in a book; or Carlos Arturo Caparroso, who told me.

Fernando Vallejo, Souls in sorrow black poppies (1995)

In adversative coordinated sentences
In sentences that present adversative coordination, a semicolon is usually used before conjunctions such as but, more, although or otherwise.

For example:

My dad said it well: when leaving London, one has to reach out to receive the tip; but as soon as you arrive in Paris, everyone reaches out to you.

Alfredo Bryce Echenique, The Exaggerated Life of Martín Romaña (1981)

Before connectors
A semicolon is usually used before connectors when the length of the periods that the discursive connector links is considerable.

For example:

I admit that I have sustained it; However, I may be wrong and it may not be the best method to download.

Antonio di Benedetto, The Suicides (1969)

Everyone is dedicated to that here, nothing at all; but I, as you will see, smuggle other illusions.

Ricardo Piglia, artificial respiration (1980)

Semicolon vs Colon

When talking about how to use a semicolon vs colon, one has to understand how each punctuation works.

What is a Colon?

They stop the speech to draw attention to what follows. After the colon, it is usually written in lower case, except in the following situations: the heading of a letter, when a textual quote is reproduced, when a proper name appears and in the classifications ordered by sections.

The two points are used as a sign of division and are written with a space of separation of the adjacent figures: Example: 12: 2 = 6
Two points are written in the legal and administrative texts, such as decrees, certificates or instances, being placed after the verb that presents the fundamental objective of the document and which is written with all its capital letters. The first word that follows that verb is written with a capital initial and in a separate paragraph. Only in this case the two points are compatible with the subordinate conjunction that. Example: CERTIFY: Who has paid …

You can see that the colon is used in more formal circumstances whereas the semicolon is often used in general sentences to show a longer pause than an ordinary comma.

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