Tip: Avoid the scary semicolon


You can live a rich and satisfying life without ever using a semicolon... even if you are an academic.

When writing web content, avoid the semicolon. In theory, it breaks up a long sentence. But in practice, the semicolon clutters up the page instead of creating white space (unlike the full stop). So it frightens people. It also has a negative effect on people using Twitter.

However, the semicolon still has one useful function. In certain formal documents—for example, legal documents—the use of dot points may be forbidden. Luckily, a semicolon can differentiate among items in a complex list.

Terrible sentence... but correct use of semicolon
The plaintiff claimed that her ex-partner had removed from her office 32 pencils and 32 whiteboard markers; 4 boxes each of A4 manilla envelopes and regular white window envelopes; and a cubic metre of polystyrene packing chips stored in a clear plastic bag.

Ban semicolons.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine


1 Comment

PJ Clark
PJ Clark

December 16, 2012

A sentence with a semicolon doesn’t have to be long; it can be short. Semicolons are especially helpful when you need more variety in terms of sentence length; for instance, if you write a lot of choppy sentences, semicolons can connect them for you with ease.

See? The problem isn’t with the punctuation; it’s with the sentence itself.

Learn to style your sentences properly; then, you’ll find semicolons useful.

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