Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

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.)

Conjunctive adverbs

  • accordingly
  • also
  • anyway
  • besides
  • certainly
  • consequently
  • conversely
  • finally
  • furthermore
  • hence
  • however
  • incidentally
  • indeed
  • instead
  • likewise
  • meanwhile
  • moreover
  • nevertheless
  • next
  • nonetheless
  • otherwise
  • similarly
  • specifically
  • still
  • subsequently
  • then
  • therefore
  • thus

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.)