Mastering the Mechanics: Semicolons
Last updated 5/31/2016
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Visual: “Walden University Writing Center. Your writing, grammar, and APA experts” appears in center of screen. Background changes to a close up of a dictionary page and a bright green box that reads: “Mastering the Mechanics: Semicolons.” Slide changes to a mostly gray slide with the heading: Semicolons.
Below the text reads:
- Between two independent clauses
Half of the staff is out sick; however, the meeting will still go on as planned.
- Between elements in a list that contains internal commas
I grouped my students into teams as follows: Mary and Patrick; Kelsey, Erik, and Cara; and Ashley and Zach.
- Between multiple sources in a single citation
(Wilson, 2010; Peters, 2007; Ruiz, 2004)
Audio: Semicolons are a little bit less common and frequently misused in scholarly writing. There are three places in APA writing that you'll want to use semicolons. The first is when you have two independent clauses, two complete sentences that you're joining to form a single sentence: "Half of the staff is out sick." That's a complete sentence. "however, the meeting will still go on as planned." That's another complete sentence. So I want to use a semicolon to join these independent clauses.
You want to use semicolons between elements in a list that contains internal commas. I know that sounds a little bit confusion so let me unpack that a little bit. "I grouped my students into teams as follows: Mary and Patrick; Kelsey, Eric, and Kara; and Ashley and Zach." Now the reason I'm using semicolons instead of commas to separate these items, is that these two comma right here, these are commas within this one specific item in my larger list. So in other words, I sort of have a list within a list here, so I use commas to separate these items, but then between the larger items in my larger list, I need to use semicolons. It's just for the sake of clarity for your reader.
And then finally when you're citing multiple sources in a single parenthetical citation, you'll use semicolons between your different sources.
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