How to Use the Semicolon Correctly in English

How to Use the Semicolon Correctly in English
Although the semicolon (;) is used more rarely these days than it once was and is even considered redundant by some writers, it remains an effective piece of punctuation with very specific functions in English prose. For those authors who report the results of sophisticated scientific or academic research, the semicolon can be extremely useful for enhancing the communication of all kinds of data and clarifying their relationships to each other. It is essential, however, to use this piece of punctuation correctly if it is to have the desired effect.
Journal Editing ServicesJournal Article Editing Services
Unfortunately, the semicolon is frequently misused, which may be part of the reason why it tends to evoke ambivalent feelings from some writers and readers. It is often used, for instance, instead of words such as ‘for instance,’ ‘for example,’ ‘namely,’ ‘because,’ ‘that is’ and the like to introduce an explanation, example, description, elaboration or illustration of what has appeared before it. This usage is incorrect, however, and it is a colon (:), not a semicolon, that should be used in such contexts. In fact, although the semicolon may resemble the colon in appearance, its function is actually similar to that of a comma or full stop, with the pause it indicates stronger or longer than the pause specified by a comma, but weaker or shorter than that indicated by a stop.
PhD ThesisEditing Services
More often than not, a semicolon functions rather like a full stop, with its most common use being to provide punctuation between two independent or main clauses that are not joined by a conjunction and could, if they were separated by a stop instead, form two sentences. In such cases, the semicolon generally implies a closer relationship between the two clauses than a full stop would.

The error known as a comma splice can be corrected by using a semicolon instead of a comma. This error occurs when two main clauses (whether they share a subject or have different subjects) are joined together into one sentence with only a comma between them, and also when two main clauses are linked only by an adverb or adverbial phrase and a comma. For example, comma splices occur in ‘I love running when the air is cool, I go jogging nearly every morning’ and ‘She was tired, nevertheless she finished the job.’ Both of these passages can be corrected simply by using a semicolon instead of the comma in each instance, though some writers might also add a comma after the word ‘nevertheless’ in the second example.
Journal Editing ServicesJournal Article Editing Services
When a semicolon is used with a function similar to that of a comma, it provides a more significant division than a comma can. A semicolon is used, for instance, instead of a comma between two main clauses that are joined by a conjunction and already contain internal commas, in which case the semicolon clarifies the sentence structure. Similarly, semicolons are used instead of commas to intensify the divisions and clarify the relationships between the items in a series or list in which the individual items are complex and already contain commas and other punctuation.

Finally, in scholarly writing semicolons are often used to separate individual references in an author–date system of citation when two or more references are gathered in a single set of parentheses, as they are in (Black, 2012; Chen, 2007; Kipler, 2015; Smith, 2013). Semicolons can be used in a similar way in a note-based system of referencing when more than one citation is included in a single note.

Why Our Editing and Proofreading Services?
At we offer the highest quality journal article editing, phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions proofreaders and achieve publication.

Our scientific proofreading services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript proofreading services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical proofreading services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.

If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

topbanner errow