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What Is The Semicolon?

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what is semicolon
 Alice Smith  Published On Feb 26,2021 | Updated on Sep 06,2022  Academic Service

What Is The Semicolon?

The semicolon is a punctuation mark that indicates a pause. The semicolon is mainly used between two major clauses when an interrelated comma is excluded. It is more pronounced than a comma. Semicolon allows us to share multiple ideas in a sentence which helps us to avoid writing separate small sentences in an awkward manner.

Example – Rony likes tea; Peter does not.

      I love winter; it is my favorite season.

In both examples, two main ideas are given in a single sentence with the help of a semicolon.

How Many Types of Semicolons?

Semicolons can be of two types in which it can be used. One type of semicolon is to merge full sentences. For example, there is one thing I am sure about; Switzerland is the best tourist spot. These are two full sentences that are interlinked with a semicolon. Here comma can not be used because it would make the sentence look entangled.  Another type of semicolon is used when we have to list some things in a detailed way. This can be confusing if it is not punctuated in the right manner. For example, Tommy has Cadbury and Kitkat; Ron has Oreo and Bournville; Peter has Coke and Chips. Here the sentence indicates chocolates and ice creams that three-person have with them.

Combining independent clauses

A semicolon can be used between two independent clauses which do not have any connecting words. Here, a semicolon should be used in such a manner where two more things are different but are equally important. For example, the Sunflower is the most beautiful flower; it is my favorite. Another example is, There is one thing I agree with; Sunflower is the most beautiful flower. In the two examples, there are two different thoughts about Sunflower and none of them is less important than the other. The semicolon is used here to make the sentences look less choppy.  

Another way semicolon can be used is without combining two independent clause with a transformation. Here, semicolon can be used to separate two self-sufficient clauses that are segregated by a conjunction such as but, therefore, thus and others. For example, The shop was out of Vanilla; thus I was forced to choose a different flavour. This example is similar to that of joining to clauses with a semicolon but adding a conjunction strengthens the meaning of the sentence as in the given example. Using the word “thus” in the example makes the condition of speaker more dramatic, which emphasise that the speaker actually wanted Vanilla.

Semicolon to separate complex list

In a complex list, semicolon gives a transparency by clearly pointing out the different items in the list. This is why semicolon is use instead of comma betwixt items. The basic rule is to make use of a semicolon to sort out the items of the list if one of the items already contains a comma. If the items are complex, semicolon can also be used previous to the conjunction. For example – My elder sister, Jainey; my younger sister Shira and my younger brother Rony are coming to visit my house. Here, since the contents in the list contains commas it is difficult to interpret when one item ends and the other begins. Hence, we use semicolon.

Semicolon where a comma should go

The semicolon is used to link two interrelated unrestrained clauses in place of comma and integrated conjunction (but, for, so, yet, and, or, nor).

For example – Peter completed his work, but Suzi did not.

Peter completed his work; Suzi did not.

We can replace comma and the interlinking conjunction with a semicolon since the linkage between the two self-sufficient clauses is clear without the linking conjunction.

Comma where a semicolon should go

When there is a need of more segregation than a comma would provide, a semicolon could be used. Semicolon should include verification and rationality of the previous statement.

Semicolon where a colon should go

Unlike semicolon, colon is used for a firm and more direct correspondence. Colon provides prominence, description or an example.

For example – The study was done in the following places: Africa, Sweden, Australia and Italy.

Common mistakes of Semicolon

One of the way where semicolon is used is to join two independent clause. However, a common mistake while using semicolon is that most often semicolon is used to join two clauses which do not have any significant relation between them. For example – I had rice for lunch; Money Heist is my favorite Web series. The two clauses are independent but they have nothing common in them.

When we have list of items containing adjectives there is a want of using semicolon. Also too much of commas in a sentence can confused the person who is reading the sentence. For example – This year for Christmas, I bought cake; chocolates; and ice creams. Here there is no need for semicolons. Commas would do the needful. Another example is – I have bought saree, blouse, food, ice-cream, movie tickets of Avengers and Harry Potter, two English books. Here there are many commas can be replaced by semicolons.

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