The Semicolon: It’s Not a Strong Comma

A poster that says Caution: Zombies

It’s true. The semicolon is used for more things than just winking in text. ;)

One of the main uses of a semicolon is to separate two independent clauses.

The semicolon isn’t like a comma; it’s really more like a period. Using a semicolon like a comma can definitely create some trouble.

First, let’s take a step back and explain the difference between an independent clause and a dependent clause. An independent clause expresses a complete thought. An independent clause is usually called a sentence. Conversely, a dependent clause is a group of words that may contain a subject and verb but does not express a complete thought.


Independent clause:
I ran quickly to escape the zombie I encountered on Main Street.

Dependent clause:
Although I ran quickly to escape the zombie I encountered on Main Street,

Can you see the difference?

The first example is a complete sentence, and the second example isn’t. Of course, we also know the first one has a happy ending, and we aren’t so sure about the second one.

So now that you understand what an independent clause is and that a semicolon connects two independent clauses, we can begin to look at how the semicolon can be used.

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