Complex list-like sentences
Semi-colons can work well along with commas to separate items in a sentence that is also behaving like a list
For separating complex items in a list-like sentence:
Sometimes a semi-colon may be used for indicating related concepts in a sentence identifying relevant additional information.
Look at the following example:
The following may be symptoms of pavor nocturnus: confusion when first awakening, especially for young children; disorientation, increasingly accompanied by a sense of panic; outbursts of anger often directed at their parents or partners (if they are adults) lasting until they become cognisant of their surroundings.
Notice in the sentence above, the list starts with a colon, the items in the list are separated by semi-colons, and there are also commas.
In the video associated with this lesson, Shaun identifies a set of conjunctive adverbs that have a relationship to semi-colons. Here is a longer list: accordingly | furthermore | undoubtedly | moreover | still | besides | otherwise | thus | consequently | likewise | meanwhile | now .... but there are more than this.
Separating two closely related clauses
Not as close as a comma, but closer than a full-stop.
For two closely related sentences
Semi-colons are used between two separate independent sentences that are closely related, effectively connecting them and creating a closer relationship than if you simply used and in between them (See Commas 1). Some joining words can be used in conjunction with a semi-colon: however, therefore, consequently...
The All Black has admitted having a drinking problem; this is the first step to recovery.
I knew the new policy would cause problems; unpopular austerity measures are now necessary to save the company.
I'm not superstitious; however, I never won a race wearing those socks.
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?
- 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')
- 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?
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?
Why: Semi-colons are only used in complex lists, but this is a simple list, where commas are all that is needed.