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Tiffany Provost

Proper English punctuation is important when submitting projects and correspondence, no matter if you are a student or a professional. Read the instructions when learning how to incorporate the semicolon into sentences.

The main use of a semicolon is to separate related clauses that aren't joined by conjunction words such as: and, but, for, nor, so, or yet. In between two related main clauses is the most popular spot to place a semicolon. Using a semicolon between these two parts of sentences, even though a period would be sufficient, shows the close connection between them. These two clauses can be compared or contrasted to provide balance in the piece. However you look at it, the semicolon connects both ideas.

The sentence below contains two related main clauses:

'I hate anchovies on my pizza; I prefer olives instead.'

Semicolons are used to join the two clauses, making a striking sentence that is clearly connected.

To use a semicolon properly, one must use it to differentiate between two clauses that contain a transitional expression or a conjunctive adverb. Another method of using the semicolon properly is to put it between two main clauses that use a conjunctive adverb such as 'however' and 'therefore' to separate - or a transitional phrase or expression like 'for instance'. In both of these cases the semicolon would come at the end of the first clause, prior to the conjunctive adverb or transitional expression. Here are some more examples of proper semicolon:

'I don't much like playing golf; in fact, I just sold my clubs.'

'The teacher gave me a B on my essay; however, I think I deserved an A.'

It is possible to move conjunctive adverbs and transitional expressions to the secondary main clause, they will still work. For an example, see the next sentence:

'Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.' - GK Chesterton

If a list of things includes punctuation marks, then you should place a semicolon. This idea may seem tricky at first, but it really isn't. When a list of items includes commas or other such punctuation marks, it is necessary to divide the long list by using a semicolon. In simple lists where single words are only separated by commas - semicolons need not be used. But if the list is more complicated, then a semicolon can aid to break up the list to make it more readable.

Look at this example:

I have visited IHOP in Houston, Texas; Miami, Florida; and Detroit, Michigan.

The commas are needed to separate the city and the state and the semicolons are there to help reader easily differentiate between the actual items in the list. If it were not written this way, the sentence would be over-full of commas which would leave even the most accomplished reader confused.

While the use of semicolons has diminished somewhat, they remain effective and useful pieces of punctuation when employed properly.

Tiffany Provost writes about grammar and punctuation http://www.howtodothings.com/education/c1252-for-students.html and education for www.HowToDoThings.com.

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