Semi-Colons, Colons and Hyphens
- The most frequent use of the semi-colon is between two complete sentences. It can be substituted for a comma plus a conjunction.
- Ex: Tom ate breakfast with his family, and then he left for his trip.
- Tom ate breakfast with his family; then he left for his trip.
- Do NOT use a semi-colon with a conjunction.
- Ex: Tom ate breakfast; and then he left.
- Use semi-colons before (and commas after) conjunctive adverbs that come between two sentences.
- Ex: Unemployment was down; consequently, the stock market surged.
- Remember to make sure there is a COMPLETE sentence on BOTH sides of the conjunctive adverb.
- Ex: The butcher started work early; however, he was still unable to fill the order in time. The butcher, however, was not included on the guest list. (This is only one sentence, there is no semi-colon here.)
The only other use for a semi-colon is between items in a series containing internal puncutation.
- Ex: We moved to several different locations: Barnesville, Ohio; Duluth, Minnesota; Syracuse, New York; and Falmouth, Maine. Notice there is a semi-colon before the and.
- NOT every list requires a colon. Colons are used ONLY after a COMPLETE sentence.
- Ex: They serve several flavors of ice cream: vanilla, chocolate, peach, strawberry, and mocha mint.
- Do not use a semi-colon when the list is an intergral part of your sentence.
- Ex: They serve many flavors of ice cream, including vanilla, chocolate, peach, strawberry and mocha mint. (no colon)
- Use a hyphen to connect two or more words functioning TOGETHER as an adjective before a noun.
- Notice the difference between the use of adjectives in these two sentences.
- Ex: He enjoyed the hot apple pie. (Both adjectives describe the pie; it's hot and made of apples.)
- It was a well-written essay. (It's not a well essay and a written essay; the two words must work together to describe the essay.)