English Grammar: Colon vs. Semicolon

Use colon:

1. before a list ( I will buy: a pen, a lighter, and a tape.)

2. before an explanation ( I went to the zoo: my friend needed a companion.)

3. before a conclusion ( After some hours, Sarah cracked the code: It was about a lost treasure buried at sea.)

4. before a definition ( Biology: the study of life)

Use semicolon to give a longer break than what a comma provides without a full stop.

1. to join 2 clauses

I went out; He stayed home.

2. to join sentences with conjunctions in between.

I went out; however, he stayed home.

3. to separate lists that have commas

The ones who came were: John, the student; Joe, the teacher; and Jane, the parent.

4. to separate clauses that have commas

The real cause of their sudden poverty was: he spent all his money on gambling, luxury items, and endless trips.

5 to combine connected sentences

It was so cold; He took off his jacket to warm her up.

Last note:

Always use a comma for the conjunction "and", never a semicolon.

Right: I loved pie, and, He loved cake.
Wrong: I loved pie; and, he loved cake.


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