Semi-Colons versus Colons: The Great Dilemma Uncategorized / Writing & Grammar

Hi everyone:

One of the biggest issues some student have, including master’s students, is when to use a semi-colon or a colon. Here’s the scoop.

If you have two complete sentences (also known as independent phrases), you can put them together into one sentence using a semi-colon. Do not stick the word “and” in there- just combine the two sentences and put a semi-colon in between them. It could not be more simple.

Do not join two independent clauses with a comma; that is wrong (this sentence, however, is right). If you want to use the word “and,” then do not use a semi-colon. An example of all of these comments is seen below:

I want to go out to dinner. I would like to see a movie afterwards.

I want to go out to dinner; I would like to see a movie afterwards.

I want to go out to dinner, and I would like to see a movie afterwards.

All of these sentences are correct. Using a semi-colons correctly will impress the professor; using them incorrectly will irritate her.

So when do you use a colon? You can use them for lists of things, such as the following:

We are taking the following items with us: tents, sleeping bags, and toiletries. Please note that I did not capitalize the word after the colon, It is not a proper noun. An exception to this rule is if you are using a quotation immediately after the complete sentence in which you placed the colon. Here is an example:

The pastor announced: “Everyone, please come into the the gym after dinner.”

Hope this helps!

Best,

Dr. Sheri


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Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

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