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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Let’s begin with a simple sentence:

Grandma stays up too late.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Now let’s expand on that a bit:

Grandma stays up too late. She’s afraid she’s going 
to miss something.

This is OK. Two independent ideas, 
separated by a period.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
What if we try to combine the two ideas?

Grandma stays up too late, she’s afraid she’s going 
to miss something.

Something’s wrong. We connected two independent clauses


with only a comma. The dreaded COMMA SPLICE!

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
We could insert a coordinating conjunction:

Grandma is afraid she’ll miss something, so she 
stays up too late.

This is better! Note the comma that accompanies 
the coordinating conjunction.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
We could also try subordinating one of these ideas:

Grandma stays up too late because she’s afraid 
she’s going to miss something.

Notice that the comma disappeared. One idea (the 
second one) now depends on the other; it has 
become a dependent clause.
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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
But let’s try something else.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Let’s try using a semicolon in this sentence.

;
Grandma stays up too late  she’s afraid she’s going 
to miss something.

Notice there is no conjunction used with this 
semicolon – either subordinating or coordinating.
Just the semicolon, all by itself.
© Capital Community College
Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Sometimes semicolons are accompanied by 
conjunctive adverbs – words such as however, 
moreover, therefore, nevertheless, consequently, 
as a result.

Grandma is afraid she’s going to miss something; 
as a result, she stays up too late.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
       Notice the pattern:

; as a result, 
     semicolon + conjunctive adverb + comma

This is a typical construction with semicolons.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
There is one other use of the semicolon: to help us 
sort out monster lists, like this one:
monster lists

The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of


Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut, Virginia
Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut, Paul
Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut, and
Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington,
Connecticut.

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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Be careful where you insert semicolons in this 
sentence.

The committee included Peter Wursthorn, Professor of


Mathematics, from Marlborough, Connecticut; Virginia
Villa, Professor of English, from Hartford, Connecticut ; Paul
Creech, Director of Rad-Tech, from Essex, Connecticut ; and
Joan Leach, Professor of Nursing, from Farmington,
Connecticut.
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Our Fri end , t he Se mi col on
Now you know everything you’ll ever need to know 
about using semicolons!

© Capital Community College
This PowerPoint presentation was created by
Charles Darling, PhD
Professor of English and Webmaster
Capital Community College
Hartford, Connecticut
copyright November 1999

© Capital Community College