Semi-Colon Rules & Examples - Punctuation

Helping students with Common Core Standards CCSS.L.6.1, CCSS.L.6.2a, and CCSS.CCRA.L.2

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Colons and semicolons are types of punctuation marks; they help speakers and writers format clauses. Semi-colons, in particular, are often incorrectly used because they are pretty similar to colons.

Semicolons are the forgotten cousin; they are often overlooked because people don’t know how to use them. However, we hope you won’t forget to use this poor punctuation mark after this semicolon list guide of rules and examples!

What's a Semicolon?

Semicolons ( ; ) are types of punctuation. It's a period on top of a comma, but it doesn't mean you can use a period or comma instead of a semicolon, so hold on tight for semicolon rules and examples!

How to Use Semicolons Correctly in English Grammar

Want to know how to use them correctly in your writing? Carry on reading, as semicolons are pretty important.

( ; ) Semicolon

There are a few grammar rules to remember when using semicolons.

1) Only capitalize the word after a semicolon if the word is a proper noun, acronym, or for style purposes in a title.

  • These are my friends; I’ve known them since I was 4.
  • I’ve never been; London looks like a cool place to visit, though!
  • We could go to the cafe to work on the project; they have amazing brownies!

2) Semicolons are strong. Stronger than a comma but a little less powerful than a colon. They act as a conjunction in two independent sentences and connect ideas or statements.

  • Let’s go to the library; I can’t study at home.
  • As she was passing the mall, she saw her friend; she went towards him.
  • The sun was shining; Lucy decided to go to the beach.

3) Think of a semicolon as a short pause; they show the equal balance between clauses, whereas colons emphasize.

  • Could you buy me some things from the supermarket: cheese, milk, and bread? (Colon)
  • Could you buy me some things from the supermarket? I need cheese for tomorrow, milk for breakfast, and some bread for sandwiches. (Question mark)
  • I'm going to the supermarket; could you pick up the kids and take them home? (Semicolon)

How do I Make Sentences With Semicolons?

Are you fed up with using colons and periods? Let’s look into how you can use semicolons instead.

Serial Listing

You can use semicolons in a list of words with lengthy explanations and lots of information. Think of a semicolon in this way as a pause for the reader to breathe and comprehend the information.

  1. I’d like to go to these places one day; London, England; Chicago, Illinois, United States; Istanbul, Tukey; Tokyo, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Goa, India.
  2. He took me for ice cream in the morning; then we went to the cinema in the afternoon; after that, we decided to grab dinner; then I came home— wow, I’m tired!
  3. I need to research the time zones for the following places: Newcastle, UK; London, Ontario; Palm Jumeirah, United Arab Emirates; Stowe, Vermont.
  4. Mr. Smith, principal; Mrs.Keen, ELA teacher; Ms.Sal, Math teacher; Mr.Fon, chef.
  5. Members of the band are here. We've got Stan, the guitar player; Fred, on bass; Sally, the singer; Lucy, on drums.

When listing, semicolons work instead of conjunctions; the small words "ors, buts, ands." You might be thinking, but why can't I use a comma? Well, you can, but a semicolon is more appropriate when you're reading or writing a long phrase or sentence. Plus, correctly using semicolons in your writing will show your teacher how much you know about punctuation.

Formatting Independent Clauses

Like most punctuation marks, semicolons help us construct sentences related to independent clauses. Each independent sentence should be a complete clause that makes sense without the other one, but they must be closely related. The semicolon helps the reader to see how the two sentences are connected.

  1. I didn’t go to the gym today; I’m way too tired.
  2. She just bought a new top; she told me she couldn’t afford to go on holiday.
  3. Andy is playing football; Marth is cooking.
  4. I've got a test tomorrow; Mr. Smith says it's important.
  5. Why don't we go to the library to study; it's the only place I can concentrate.

Note: If you used a comma in these sentences, you would get a comma splice. A comma splice is when two independent clauses are punctuated with a comma. In literature, comma splices are sometimes used to dramatize or bring a specific mood.

Constructing Sentences With Adverb Conjunctions

Though it’s not necessary to use semicolons with conjunctions such as "or, and, or but,’" adverb conjunctions and semicolons in writing could make it more interesting and help the reader follow your train of thought. If you use a semicolon with an adverb of conjunction, you must always use a comma after the adverb of conjunction!

Adverbs of Conjunction

  • However
  • Moreover
  • Otherwise
  • Consequently
  1. Sandy was told that moving to New York would be expensive; however, she decided her dreams were more important.
  2. Walk slowly on the frozen ice; otherwise, you might fall.
  3. The bike was expensive; moreover, it was modern and looked good.
  4. Ali had to go to the hospital because she broke her leg; consequently, she missed the school field day.
  5. Hattie was super excited about her summer vacation; however, she had to pack first.

Rules of Semicolons in Quotes

You can use semicolons in quotes, but unlike commas and periods, semi-colons, dashes, and colons almost always go outside a quote.

  1. The school board approved the teachers’ proposal of “having no significant impact on the budget”; they, however, didn’t approve their requests for more time off.
  2. Sally reviewed the edits” promptly”; however, she wasn’t ready for the influx of requests.
  3. Zane checked his phone "all the time"; otherwise, he would miss all the latest gossip.

Semicolon Rules FAQs

Now you've processed all of that, see if these FAQs answer your questions.

How do I use semicolons in a list?

How to use semicolons with adverbs?

Can I use semicolons in quotes?

Colon And Semicolons: Tips & Tricks

Since colons ( : )  and semicolons ( ; ) look pretty similar, let’s delve into their differences!


Colons are used to add a pause; they are made up of two periods, so think of them as a full pause.

They are used in the following situations and have some specific rules.

  • To give an explanation or example similar to this!
  • If a sentence fragment follows a colon, the first letter of the second clause doesn’t always need to be capitalized unless it’s a proper noun.
  • Check the grammar style you’re following, as there are a lot of different rules depending on the style guide you use.
  • If you read the sentence and it makes sense without the colon, get rid of it! If it doesn’t, keep it.


To wrap up, semicolons are used in the following situations and have some specific rules.

  • Use a semicolon when going into detail in a long list.
  • You don’t need to capitalize the first word after using a semicolon unless it’s a proper noun or acronym.
  • Always check the grammar style guide that you’re using when in doubt.
  • Use semicolons to link related ideas.
  • The semi-colon is also an emoticon– It’s a wink in popular culture!

And that’s the end of our love letter to the semi-colon; they are amazing, aren’t they?