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How to use a semicolon

The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark used to separate major elements of a sentence. Semicolons are part of the internal punctuation group, used within a sentence. This is in contrast to punctuation used to end a sentence, such as a period, question mark, or exclamation mark.

Use a semicolon between two closely related independent clauses. In this case, the semicolon is used instead of a coordinating conjunction, such as or, but, and.

  • We wandered through the forest most of the day; sunlight burst through the treetops to light our way.

Semicolons can replace commas to separate items in a list, especially when the elements of that list contain commas.

  • In our group was Ravi, a biologist from Colorado; Anastasia, a chemist from Arizona; Bogie, a geologist from California; and Stefanie, a linguist from North Carolina.

If you are interested in learning more about semicolons and how to use them, we recommend these resources:

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