Using a semicolon to connect closely related thoughts

You can use a semicolon to connect two closely related thoughts. The two examples below are both correct:
  • Whales are very intelligent. They have language and culture.
  • Whales are very intelligent; they have language and culture.
Grammar note: these two thoughts can be expressed as two complete sentences, as in the first example. When joined by a semicolon, the two thoughts become one compound sentence. The part after the semicolon begins with a small letter.

Using a semicolon before connecting words

You can also use a semicolon before connecting words such as however, consequently or moreover. The connecting word or phrase also needs a comma after it.
  • I think; therefore, I am.
  • We had a few small problems; however, the meeting went quite well.
  • We got more snow than usual this winter; as a result, there may be more flooding in spring.

Using semicolons in a series

Another use for the semicolon is to separate items in a series. Semicolons are not used in a simple series, such as “eggs, cheese, and milk”; however, they should be used if the items in the series are complex and have commas within them.
  • On this panel we have Jose, a senior at North High; Mickey, a senior at East; and Jessica, a junior at West.