Semicolon Vs. Period: Guide to Appropriate Usage

A semicolon (;) typically links two independent clauses in a…

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.

Examples

  • 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.

Examples

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples

  • 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.
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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!

Frequently asked questions

What the 3 rules for using semicolons?

  • A list separates items by semicolons.
  • Relationships between independent clauses can be linked through a semicolon. Independent clauses communicate a complete thought and make sense on its own.
  • Use a semicolon with conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

What is the correct punctuation for a list?

Unless it is a bullet or numbered list, avoid using semicolons ();) or commas (,) at the ends of list items. After ‘and’ or ‘for’ list items.

How do you use a period and a semicolon?

Semicolons are thought-provoking pauses, rather than full stops indicated by periods. Semicolons allow two complete ideas to be linked without the need for conjunctions. Semicolons are not only used for linking both main clauses.

What are some examples of semicolons?

Semicolons are separate Clauses. If you put a period between them, the two sentences in that sentence may constitute sentences on their own.

Do I use a semicolon before however?

Semicolons with the word “however” indicate that the relationship between the two independent clauses is one of contrast or opposition. When writing a compound sentence, use a semicolon before and a comma after “however.”.

Are semicolons and periods interchangeable?

Semicolons are often interchangeable with periods because they can be used to connect related independent clauses.

Where do you put the comma when using a period?

Unlike periods, commas indicate a shorter break. Commas are sometimes thought of as soft pauses that separate words, clauses, or ideas within a sentence. Why use commas? Grammarly gives you real-time suggestions wherever you write.

Should I use a period or a semicolon?

If the second sentence starts with either a conjunctive adverb or a transitional expression, use a semicolon to replace it, for example, for instance, that is, accordingly, furthermore, otherwise.

How do you know if you’re using a semicolon correctly?

  • Semicolons are most commonly used to link two separate clauses that are closely related in thought (in a single sentence).
  • Place a semicolon between two independent clauses which are connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases.

When should a colon be used examples?

When you use a colon, you can connect two distinct sentences. Use a colon in the second sentence to clarify or explain the first sentence. The joy that I have is that I and my sisters are going to Disneyland!

How do you use a semicolon in a list examples?

Semicolons separate items from each other. There are ten members on the Council: three from Sydney, Australia; four from Auckland, New Zealand; two from Suva, Fiji; and one from Honiara, Solomon Islands. There are two closely related independent clauses that semicolons join.

What are the 4 semicolon rules?

  • Semicolons in a serial list.
  • Use semicolons with conjunctive adjectives.
  • Separate Semicolons connect
  • Use a semicolon between two independent clauses to remove the conjunction.
  • Use the Semicolon to give a wise speech.

How many semicolons can you use in a sentence?

They can be used to connect three or more independent clauses.

How do you use a colon and semicolon in a list?

It is also common to use a semicolon where a colon should go. The semicolons separate items within a list, while a colon precedes and introduces a new list.

What is the colon rule?

A colon must always obey a complete sentence. Never use a colon in the middle of a sentence. A colon is a term used after a full sentence or independent clause to introduce something that illustrates, clarifies, or amplifies what was said in the sentence that preceded it.

Semicolon Vs. Period: Guide to Appropriate Usage

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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