Semicolons and Colons

The Semicolon

When two related main clauses are not joined by a coordinating conjunction, use a semi-colon

She tells me her flip-flops are a fashion statement; I doubt it.

The bride kissed the bridegroom; that’s when I knew I could never marry Brad.

When two main clauses are linked by a conjunctive adverb or transitional phrase, use a semi-colon.

Many women wear staggeringly high heels; in fact, the average woman is now taller than the average man.

Most gluteus maximii are impervious to exercise; gym rats, however, continue to squander their hard-earned cash.

The report stated that young people contract HIV because they are broke and enter into financial arrangements with older gentlemen; in other words, money for sex.

Use a semicolon when you have a series of items with internal punctuation

Hurt puppy dog men on film are John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever,” with his Brooklyn accent and hairdo; Montgomery Cliff in “From Here To Eternity,” with his damaged pretty-boy looks and his trumpet; and Marlon Brando in “On The Waterfront,” with his punch-drunk face and innocent desire to do good.

Best first-date restaurants are El Greco’s, with its cheeseburger deluxe; Renzulli’s, with its clams; and Peter Luger’s, with its porterhouse steaks.

The Colon

Use a colon after a main clause to emphasize a quotation, a list, or an appositive.


In order to truly appreciate the sensitive side of rap music, one must listen to Jay-Z’s moving lyrics: I’ve got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one.

Appositive: (a word or phrase that modifies a noun)

She poured a can of kerosene on top of the mattress: a flea infested and thoroughly stained relic.


Every tuna fish sandwich should include the following: Progresso tuna, mayonnaise, tomatoes, toast, lettuce, curry powder, pepper, Tobasco sauce.

Use a colon between main clauses when the second clause summarizes the first clause.

A sensitive man is like a singing dog: he can be trained to perform, but he can never understand why.

After formal salutations.

To Whom It May Concern:

Dear Madam:

Dear Mr. Jackson:

Between hours and minutes

10:45 p.m

2:08 a.m.


The ratio of morons to mutants was 8:2

Fix the following sentences:

1. You can become a millionaire by wining the lottery, a virtual impossibility, inheriting millions from an uncle you didn’t know existed, another thigh-slapper, or by dropping $10,000 each year, for twenty years, in a high performance mutual fund, letting compound interest do all your work.

2. She has more than twenty pillows and thirty stuffed animals on her bed, a bit too many, don’t you think?.

3. I prefer women with a .7 waist-to-hip size ration, in fact, I always carry a tailor’s tape.

4. I have three favorite movies, Hellboy, Rambo, Tashbo.


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