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How to Use a Semicolon

Emphasize the close relationship between two sentences by using a semicolon to form a compound sentence.


  • Step 1: Join closely related independent clauses Join two independent clauses that are closely related by inserting a semicolon between them. Independent clauses can stand on their own as sentences.
  • Step 2: Use with conjunctive adverbs and transitions Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb, such as "however," or a transitional phrase, such as "for example."
  • TIP: Use a comma, not a semicolon, to link two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction such as "and," "but," "yet," "so," "for," "nor," and "or."
  • Step 3: Separate a complex list Separate items in a complex list when the items contain commas by using semicolons after each item.
  • FACT: The Greek question mark looks identical to the English semicolon.

You Will Need

  • Independent clauses
  • Conjunctive adverbs and transitions
  • Complex lists
  • Commas (optional)

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