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

  • join two independent clauses without a conjunction (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 156). For example, "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 (APA, 2020, p. 156; 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, some people think it should be Vancouver.
  • join elements of a series when individual items of the series already include commas (APA, 2020, p. 156) 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
Manager, Blended Learning Success

(Updated June 11, 2020; reviewed March 3, 2021)


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).