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Back to basics with semicolons

If the comma is the most misused punctuation mark, the semicolon is probably the least understood. Use a semicolon to:

  • join two independent clauses when the second clause restates the first or when the two clauses are of equal emphasis (e.g., The capital city of British Columbia is Victoria; the capital city of Alberta is Edmonton).
  • join two independent clauses when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb (e.g., however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus, meanwhile, nonetheless, otherwise) or a transition (e.g., in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, even so). For example: the capital city of British Columbia is Victoria; however, people often think it should be Vancouver.
  • join elements of a series when individual items of the series already include commas e.g., major cities in Canada include: Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta; and Toronto, Ontario.

For more information regarding semicolons, please refer to "Commas, Semicolons, and Colons" in Punctuation and GCF Learn Free's page on semicolons.

Theresa Bell
Writing centre coordinator