Rules for Using Semicolons

Many people feel uneasy when it comes to semicolons. Never fear! You can proceed with confidence if you follow the simple rules below. 

(Note: It’s easier to understand semicolons if you know about main clauses.)

More Examples

I wish I had planted many kinds of vegetables in my garden; I’m getting really sick of beets.

The second main clause elaborates on why the gardener wishes he had planted a variety of vegetables, so a semicolon makes sense here.

My parents won’t let me get a pet T-rex; they would prefer a boring dog instead.

The second main clause explains the parents’ pet preferences, so the semicolon is an appropriate choice.

The second rule for using semicolons is essentially the same as the first; however, it adds a transition word and a comma. Read more below!

Between clauses, conjunctive adverbs can show many kinds of relationships: addition (adding more information), cause and effect, comparison, contrast, emphasis, result, and sequence.  

Examples

Marco has to wear a special bracelet before riding rollercoasters; otherwise, he gets too dizzy and has to take frequent breaks.

The conjunctive adverb otherwise shows a contrasting relationship between the first main clause (Marco wears a special bracelet) and the second main clause (Marco would get dizzy without the bracelet).

Leticia has an irrational fear of giraffes; therefore, she can never visit the safari section of the zoo.

The conjunctive adverb therefore shows that the information in the second clause (Leticia has limited access to the zoo) results from the information in the first clause (Leticia is frightened by giraffes).

Elise loves the go karts at the amusement park; certainly, she whips around the corners in a lime green Speedster 5000.

The conjunctive adverb certainly shows that the information in the second clause (Elise loves to drive quickly in the Speedster 5000) emphasizes the information in the first clause (Elise loves go karts).

Common Conjunctive Adverbs

accordinglyalsoanywaybesides
certainlyconsequentlyfinallyfurthermore
hencehoweverincidentallyindeed
insteadlikewisemeanwhilemoreover
namelyneverthelessnextnonetheless
nowotherwisesimilarlystill
thenthereforethusundoubtedly

Want more practice punctuating sentences with semicolons? Complete the practice exercises in this video!


Semicolons Quiz

Ready to test your knowledge of semicolons? Take the semicolons quiz!


Punctuation