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7 The Semi Colon ( ; )

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7 The Semi Colon ( ; )


The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark which indicates a pause, and can be seen as a super comma because it can be used correctly where the use of a comma would be incorrect. That does not mean that a semicolon can be used everywhere a comma is used.

A common mistake some people make is to join two sentences with a comma, but without a conjunction. Such sentences can, however, be joined by using a semicolon.

Mary is French. Jane is Chinese. - correct

Mary is French, Jane is Chinese. - incorrect

Mary is French, but Jane is Chinese. - correct

Mary is French; Jane is Chinese. - correct

They are used to connect closely related ideas, and when used correctly, can get your writing a better mark in the exam.

I never use a computer; I prefer pen and paper.

Semicolons are used for lists that contain commas, to avoid confusion, and for lists where the elements are groups of words.

I bought some apples, pears, and bananas from the greengrocer; some sausages, pork chops, and bacon from the butcher; and some cakes from the cake shop.

But, although a comma is used in letter writing at the end of the opening greeting, it would be incorrect to replace that comma with a semicolon.

Dear David, - correct

Dear David; - incorrect

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