Breadcrumbs

Semi-colons

Video (from Youtube): Semicolon by Smrt English (new tab). (Watching time: 3m:49secs)

Instructions: Hover or tap the questions below to see the reason for the answers given in the quiz.

1. Epidemics were common in the 20th Century.
They are now rare.

What is the best punctuation between these clauses?

semi-colon ✔
Why:

  1. A comma cannot join two independent sentences unless combined with a conjunction. (Putting a comma between these two as they stand would make an error called a 'comma splice')
  2. Joining these sentences with a colon would cause the sentence no longer to make logical sense, because the second sentence is not an explanation of the idea in the first, neither is it a list (both reasons for using a colon).

2. Two clauses, when separated by a semi-colon, should be complete and independent.
True or false?

True ✔
Why: A semi-colon is different from a comma in that it separates two clauses that are equal in grammatical importance. A comma separates a dependent or subordinate clause from a independent or dominant clause. Grammar Girl explains a subordinate clause

3. An oil spill on such a scale was predicted however no measures were in place
What is the correct punctuation for this sentence?

An oil spill on such a scale was predicted; however, no measures were put in place. ✔
Why: This was the correct option because the semi-colon is used between the two grammatically independent/dominant clauses. The key with using semi-colons is to judge whether the clauses on either side of it are independent.

4. There are countless factors to take into account in urban transport planning: urban density; noise; pollution.
Semi-colons used correctly - yes or no?

No ✔
Why: Semi-colons are only used in complex lists, but this is a simple list, where commas are all that is needed.