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Colons and Semi Colons

Sep 2, 2022
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Using Colons and Semi Colons

Semi-colon 

It is a punctuation mark that is used to separate two independent (main) clauses which are closely related to each other. 

It looks like a period/full stop on top of a comma. 

It is stronger than a comma but weaker than a period. 

It takes the place of the conjunction within the sentence. 

If there is more than one clause in a sentence, use a semicolon to replace the coordinating conjunction (but, and, or, nor, for, so, yet, etc.)  

parallel
  • It was hot and the sun was glaring.
  • It was hot; the sun was glaring.
  • I love to dance and my mother loves to sing .
  • I love to dance; my mother loves to sing.  
  • The shop was closed because everyone was on leave.
  • The shop was closed; everyone was on leave. 

Other Uses 

To separate items within a list. 

  • I want the following: moisturizer for the skin, some hair gel and mascara.   

It can be used in place of a comma, especially in a list already containing commas 

  • The crew will consist of Jonathan, the geologist; Marie, the archeologist; Sean, the botanist. 

It’s also used between independent clauses which are joined by conjunctive adverbs (like however, moreover, thus and therefore.) Put a comma after the conjunctive adverb. 

Colon 

It is a punctuation mark  

It looks like two dots, one on top of the other: 

parallel

It can be used to introduce what follows it  

  • We will need many things for our trip: a tent, clothes, blankets and a towel. 

It can introduce a word, phrase, sentence, quotation, or a list.  

It emphasizes what we’re introducing. So, it makes the reader stop and pay attention to what follows the colon. 

  • The school provided the following food during the war: beans, bacon, milk and flour.  

It can be used to separate two independent but linked clauses.  

The second clause concludes the first clause and also adds more detail to it. 

  • An alligator is not an amphibian: it is a reptile. 
  • Everyone agreed: the alligator is a reptile. 

In some cases, colons are also used to introduce a quotation or direct speech.

For example: 

  • Mother told me: “Think before you leap.” 

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