What is a Semicolon?
A semicolon consists of a period and a comma below it. But you surely can't use it like either punctuation marks anyway. Here's more on semicolons.
How to Use a Semicolon Correctly
Semicolons are used instead of conjunctions like and to join two clauses that are independent of each other. A capital should not start the next word that follows a semicolon, except if the word is an acronym or a proper noun.
He plays excellently well; John will be there to watch him play.
The semicolon is somewhere in between commas and periods: It provides a stronger effect than a comma but less divisive when compared to a period.
1. Semicolons Connect Related Independent Clauses
Semicolons join closely related independent clauses. Thus, both clauses linked by a semicolon should form complete sentences. They should also share some level of logical connection before a semicolon can be used to link them.
Poverty bedevils many countries; bad governance is a major cause of poverty.
Traveling by air is really exhilarating; I don't like congested highways.
A comma splice will result if a comma is used in the above sentences instead of a semicolon.
2. Delete the Conjunction When You Use a Semicolon
Apart from semicolons, conjunctions (i.e., and, but, or, etc.) can be used to link two independent clauses. However, a conjunction and semicolon cannot be jointly used in the same sentence. Consequently, if you are using a conjunction, you have to leave out the semicolon and vice versa. In case you used a comma to separate the clauses, this has to be followed by something else, e.g., and, but, etc. to prevent a comma splice.
He saw the cat, and it came to attack a rat.
He saw the cat; it came to attack a rat.
3. Use Semicolons in a Serial List
Semicolons can also be used when a list contains so many items with internal punctuation. Here, it allows the reader to understand the list by keeping track of the items on the list.
My brother has traveled to many cities: Paris, France; Birmingham, London; Beijing, China; Pretoria, South Africa.
4. Use Semicolons With Conjunctive Adverbs
Conjunctive adverbs are nevertheless, moreover, however, then, therefore, likewise, finally, consequently. A semicolon should be used when these adverbs are used to link two independent clauses.
I advised him against going out at night; however, Tracy rebuffed my suggestion.
Tracy left for office by taking the next train; although, Gaby took a taxi.
5. Use a Semicolon to Give a Wily Wink
Even though emoticons have taken center stage in informal writings in recent times, they don't trivialize the importance of having a good grasp of the English language. For some little extra fun and spicing up, you can go with a semicolon for a wily wink. But don't forget to know the rules before using them in sentences too. If you have grammatically independent clauses with a decent link between them and want to avoid the pitfall of a comma slice, latch onto the trusty semi-colon, and you shouldn't have any worries.