Posted by: episystechpubs | March 27, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Semicolon Revisited

Greetings! While on vacation recently, believe it or not, I had a lively conversation with my cousin and his girlfriend about semicolons. Stop laughing.

Anyway, the conversation reminded me that it’s been a while since we discussed this misunderstood yet lovely piece of punctuation.

While we don’t use semicolons often in technical writing, we do use them sometimes, so it’s good to know the rules. Here are the three simple rules you need to know:

Rule 1 (This is the main rule, so pay attention!): A semicolon combines two main clauses (also known as independent clauses or complete sentences). We use a semicolon (rather than a period) to show that there is a close relationship between two sentences.

For this rule, it might help to think of a semicolon as a weak period—but don’t capitalize the second clause.

Example: The mail carrier drove right past my mailbox today; he must still be angry about the Rover incident.

Important: Do not use semicolons with conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet).

Incorrect example: The mail carrier drove right past my mailbox today; so he must still be angry about the Rover incident.

Rule 2: Use a semicolon between main clauses joined by however, for example, etc.

Example: The mail carrier drove right past my mailbox today; however, he waved as he passed, so I think he’ll be back someday.

Rule 3: Use a semicolon between a series of items that contain commas. For this rule, it might help to think of a semicolon as a super comma.

Example: The mail carrier delivers mail to San Diego, CA; Poway, CA; and Escondido, CA.

Rover Burcher

(Rover wants you to know that the supposed incident with the mail carrier is merely a figment of my imagination.)

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432


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