This image is from one of Dr. Bailey's books: The Practical Writer (7th edition) Semicolon

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The semicolon used to be more popular in bureaucratic writing—it created long sentences without much benefit and gave the document a stodgy tone. But there are occasional times when a semicolon is the perfect mark.

The key to the semicolon is that it separates similar grammatical elements. Think of it as the point of balance on a see-saw.

Visual summary

Visual summary of rules for the semicolon

Rule: Use a semicolon to separate two related sentences.

There are several rules for semicolons, but this one is by far the most common.


Our new computers are fast and cheap; our old ones were slow and expensive.

See how the semicolon separates two full sentences? And the content of the sentences is balanced, too, isn't it?

Frequently asked questions about the semicolon

How much space should you put after a semicolon?

Should you capitalize after a semicolon?

How should you use the semicolon with words like however?

What's a common misuse of the semicolon?

What's the difference: colons, dashes, and semicolons?

Want to see samples of good sentences with a semicolon?

Next step

Now let's turn to the comma.

Copyright 2002 by Edward P. Bailey
(all rights reserved)