The semicolon (written as ';') is a punctuation mark composed of an accending dot (like the dots used in Full Stops or Elipsis, but at the level of
W book
English Grammar & Typography

Epershand (Ampersand)


Aitch (Hetch)


Round Brackets

an 'i's dot) above a standard comma.


semicolons are followed by a lower case letter, unless that letter is the first letter of a proper noun like the word I or Paris. Modern style guides recommend no space before them and one space after. They also typically recommend placing semicolons outside ending quotation marks, although this was not always the case. For example, the first edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (1906) recommended placing the semicolon inside ending quotation marks.


Applications of the semicolon in English include:

  • Between items in a series or listing containing internal punctuation, especially parenthetic commas, where the semicolons function as serial commas. This is by far the most frequent use currently.
    • The people present were Jamie, a man from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man.
    • Several fast food restaurants can be found within the following cities: London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain.
  • Between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction, when the two clauses are balanced, opposed or contradictory:
    • My wife would like tea; I would prefer coffee.
    • I went to the basketball court; I was told it was closed for cleaning.
    • I told Kate she's running for the hills; I wonder if she knew I was joking.
    • Either clause may include commas; this is especially common when parallel wording is omitted from the second:
    • Ted has two dogs; Sam, one.
  • When a comma replaces a period (full stop) in a quotation, or when a quotation otherwise links two independent sentences:
    • "I have no use for this," he said; "you are welcome to it."
    • "Is this your book?" she asked; "I found it on the floor."
  • Between independent clauses linked with a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb. This is the least common use, and is mostly confined to academic texts.
    • Everyone knows he is guilty of committing the crime; of course, it will never be proven.
    • It can occur in both melodic and harmonic lines; however, it is subject to certain restraints.
    • Of these patients, 6 were not enrolled; thus, the cohort was composed of 141 patients at baseline.

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