A semicolon is used to join two sentences, independent clauses or a series of items which are closely connected in meaning.
A semicolon separates two independent clauses that are closely related. Since both independent clauses are complete sentences, a full stop can be used in place of the semicolon.
- Some of them played balls and flew kites on the crowded beach; others swam in whatever space they had.
- We sent them the packages yesterday morning; they should have received them by now.
A semicolon is used to divide a sentence into two parts, the second of which usually contains commas separating items.
- Some of the things we need are fresh, green salad; chunky, creamy soup; and spicy, thick sauce.
- The cities of island countries that we have visited include St. George's, Grenada; Kingston, Jamaica; and Antananarivo, Madagascar.
A semicolon is typically placed before a conjunctive adverb (such as however, nonetheless, therefore) that is used to connect one clause to another.
- He gives up smoking; obviously, he fears contracting one of the smoking-related diseases.
- The whole article was badly written; moreover, it has some grammatical mistakes.
A semicolon cannot be used to replace a colon.
- No: We are looking forward to the mission; to explore the cave.
- Yes: We are looking forward to the mission: to explore the cave.
A semicolon must not be used after a dependent clause that comes before an independent clause. The correct punctuation mark is a comma.
- No: Despite her parents' objections; she bought a lion cub and kept it as a pet.
- Yes: Despite her parents' objections, she bought a lion cub and kept it as a pet.