Semicolon Vs. Period: Guide to Appropriate Usage

A semicolon (;) typically links two independent clauses in a sentence while a period (. ) ends a sentence. Using a semicolon where a period is called for- will create an awkward sentence.

You want to craft meaningful sentences that others can make sense of. This article discusses Semicolon vs. Period and highlight tips for their appropriate usage.

The Period

The period (.) or “full stop” is one of the commonly used punctuation marks in English. So it makes sense that just about every piece of text includes this punctuation mark.

Period conveys a significant and definitive pause, more pronounced than that of a semicolon.

Common Uses of the Period

1. To end a sentence.

The most salient use of the period is to end a sentence. However, not every sentence ends in a period. Others can end in question marks or exclamation points. More precisely, a period is used to end statements or commands.


  • I was asleep when you called.
  • Tell Johnson to come over.

2. In abbreviations and to indicate an omission.

The period indicates that a word is incomplete. Abbreviations such as etc., i.e., e.g., et al., Mr., and Dr., are excellent examples.

Also, periods are used to write initials, for example, when only the first letter of a name is written. The ellipsis, a punctuation mark composed of three periods, indicates an omission of some words or an entire sentence.


  • Mr. Samuel is my favorite teacher.
  • James and Raphael (2002) described education as…

The Semicolon

Although the semicolon (;) has a less prominent role in the English language, it is an essential and valuable punctuation mark. Its proper usage may be complex for a person new to punctuation. But with the tips below, you’re sure to use them the right way. Let’s look at the uses of the semicolon.

Uses of the Semicolon

The semicolon has a variety of uses. Some of the common uses include:

1. To connect closely related independent clauses.

The most common use of the semicolon is to connect two related independent clauses in a sentence. An independent clause contains a subject and a verb and forms a grammatically complete sentence.

The sentences joined by the semicolon are whole sentences, not dependent on each other but closely related.


  • Rebecca brought the food; Frank brought the fruits.
  • I was famished; I ate two plates of spaghetti.

2. With conjunctive adverbs.

Conjunctive adverbs are parts of speech that link one main clause to another. They are not strong enough to join independent clauses without supporting punctuation. The semicolon is used before the conjunctive adverb to help connect the clauses effectively.

Common examples of conjunctive adverbs are, therefore, accordingly, furthermore, similarly, and hence.


  • Michelle went to the supermarket; however, she couldn’t find anything she wanted to buy.
  • Nathan didn’t prepare for the test; therefore, his grades were poor.

3. To separate long items in a list or series.

The semicolon effectively separates long sentences or long items in a list if they already contain commas.

  • I ate two medium tomatoes, one; utterly sour, the other; delicious, and white chocolate brownies.

Semicolon vs. Period: The Difference

The semicolon indicates an audible pause, slightly longer than the comma but shorter than the period.

The period is a commonly used punctuation mark in English, utilized in almost every writing. However, the semicolon could be a better choice than the period in some cases. Take a look at the differences below.

  • A semicolon connects two independent clauses. Although these clauses can stand on their own and easily end in a period, the semicolon indicates their connection. If a period is used instead, it implies that each sentence is a different thought and is not related to the other.
  • A period ends a statement or a command. A semicolon cannot be used at the end of a sentence.
  • The semicolon is the ideal punctuation mark when a conjunctive adverb introduces the second clause. Replacing the semicolon with a period in this case will lead to two separate sentences, conveying different meanings.
bold pen on white lined paper selective focus photography
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

To Wrap Up

Is there a difference between the semicolon and the period? Yes!

The semicolon connects related independent clauses in a sentence, while the period ends a sentence. The use of semicolons and periods appropriately can be confusing. However, you must know the difference, so you don’t accidentally make your sentence nonsensical.

With the tips highlighted in this article, you can begin to use these punctuation marks effectively in your writing!

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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