Colons and Semicolons : With The Semis Emerson AIken, Elizabeth Eroshenko, Maya Mehigan, and Keya Pokhriyal

What are colons and semicolons?

Colons are used to introduce or define something, while semicolons are used for joining two or more ideas or independent clauses.

Example of a colon: Tom Brady has a wife: Gisele Bündchen.

Example of a semicolon: I have a big test tomorrow; I can't go out tonight.

Colon Rules:

Use to:

  • introduce an item or a series of items. Do not capitalize the first item after the colon (unless it's a proper noun).

Avoid using a colon before a list if it directly follows a verb or preposition that would ordinarily need no punctuation in that sentence.

Not recommended: I want: butter, sugar, and flour.

Recommended: I want butter, sugar, and flour.

  • When listing items one by one, one per line, following a colon, capitalization and ending punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases by letters, numbers, or bullet points.

A colon instead of a semicolon may be used between independent clauses when the second sentence explains, illustrates, paraphrases, or expands on the first sentence.

You also can use colons when there is a quote.

Example: Elizabeth made an announcement: “I am the Content Manager.”

Semicolon Rules:

A semicolon can replace a period if the writer wishes to narrow the gap between two closely linked sentences.

Avoid a semicolon when a dependent clause comes before an independent clause.

Use to:

  • -Link two independent clauses to connect closely related ideas

Example: Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.

  • -Link clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases to connect closely related ideas
  • Link lists where the items contain commas to avoid confusion between list items

Example: There are basically two ways to write: with a pen or pencil, which is inexpensive and easily accessible; or by computer and printer, which is more expensive but quick and neat.

  • -Link lengthy clauses or clauses with commas to avoid confusion between clauses
  • -Link clauses connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases to connect closely related ideas

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