Posted by: episystechpubs | July 29, 2014

Nifty Nuggets: Semicolons

Per the JHA Style Guide for Technical Communication and Training, you should avoid using semicolons in your writing. Sentences should be kept simple so that semicolons are not required. Lengthy sentences make writing difficult to read and understand, especially in technical documentation. You can trim sentence length by breaking long sentences into two or more separate sentences. The new editing tool (Acrolinx) that Jack Henry is working on implementing will flag sentences that contain more than 30 words.

If you must use a semicolon, here are the rules from a previous Editor’s Corner written by Donna Bradley Burcher:

Rule 1: Use a semicolon between two independent clauses (which is a highfalutin way of saying two complete sentences) that are not joined by a conjunction (such as, and, but, because, etc.). Used this way, the semicolon signals a closer connection between the clauses than a period would.


· Don’t argue with me; I’m a black belt.

· He says he’s allergic to dogs; she says he just doesn’t want her to adopt the Saint Bernard she found at the shelter.

· Other networks do not use this parameter; it remains set to No.

Note: Similarly, you can use a semicolon with a transitional adverb (like however, therefore, etc.) between your two independent clauses, for example:

· He really liked road trips; however, he suffered from motion sickness so he couldn’t be the map reader.

Rule 2: Use a semicolon to separate the main entries in a list that also includes subentries. (In other words, use semicolons to separate items in a series when some or all of the items in that series already contain commas. The examples below should make this rule clear.)


· There are Symitar credit unions in San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; and Chicago, IL.

· Set the HB Enable Code field to indicate the member’s level of access (inquiries only; inquiries and transfers; or inquiries, transfers, and withdrawals).

Thank you,

Jackie Solano

Technical Writer, Episys Technical Publications


8985 Balboa Avenue

San Diego, California 92123

Direct Line: 619-542-6711

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