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Punctuation: Semicolons

Semicolon Basics

Semicolons are punctuation marks used to separate parts of sentences. Use a semicolon in the following instances.

  1. Two independent clauses. Use a semicolon when separating two independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction.
    Example: Jones (2014) argued that intelligence was fixed; Smith (2011) argued that ability could be fluid.
  2. To join two independent clauses with a conjunctive adverb (e.g, "however," "therefore," "consequently," "nevertheless," "furthermore," "moreover"). Note that there is a semicolon before the conjunctive adverb and a comma after it.
    Example: This structure joins two independent clauses; moreover, it creates cohesion in the text by showing how one idea relates to another.

    Example: I had difficulty obtaining a large number of participants; however, I still reached saturation in the interviews.
  3. Series. Use a semicolon to separate elements in a series that already contains commas.
    Example: Amy ordered three pizzas: one with pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms; one with bacon, ham, and green peppers; and one with tomatoes, olives, and red peppers.
    Example: Many have claimed that the sky is blue (Hawking et al., 1994; Lima, 2003; Steinberg & Jordan, 2001).

For more information about semicolons, see the following links:

Also watch the Mastering the Mechanics 2 and 3 webinars. Semicolon usage is frequently discussed in these two webinars.

In addition, refer to APA, Section 6.4 for more information about semicolon usage.