Semicolons and Colons | Writing
You’ve undoubtedly come across semicolons (;) and colons (:) while reading. But have you used them in your writing? We’ll take a look at these two punctuation marks and discuss how to use them correctly as you prepare for the TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest.
A semicolon joins two or more independent clauses into a single sentence. These independent clauses are separate ideas but closely related in thought.
- Use a semicolon to join two complete sentences with related ideas.
Example 1: My grandmother made us dinner last night; it tasted exquisite.
Example 2: By age 19, Ellen had raced in three half-marathons; by age 28, she had raced in twice that amount.
Example 3: We’re going to visit relatives in Seattle next month; we’ll get to see the Space Needle, ride the Bainbridge Ferry, and hopefully see Mount St. Helens.
- Use a semicolon with phrases like “however,” “in fact,” and “for example.”
Example 1: I ate a lot at dinner; however, I was hungry just a few hours later.
Example 2: Home Alone was one of my favorite Christmas movies during the 1990s; in fact, it is my favorite Christmas movie of all time.
Example 3: He is a gourmet chef who always cooks meat with several different spices; for example, my chicken was sprinkled with paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic.
- Use semicolons between items in a list that already have commas.
Example 1: The dinner menu included salmon, with garlic; salad, with French dressing; asparagus, with lemon; and corn chowder, with scallions and cheese.
Example 2: For the school’s clothing drive, I brought sweaters that are pink, white, and yellow; shorts that are blue, green, and teal; and shoes that are black and grey.
Colons indicate quotations, a list of items, or are used to separate two clauses, the second of which expands on the first.
- Use a colon to introduce a list after an independent clause.
Example 1: The airline offers tasty in-flight snacks: peanuts, pretzels, ginger cookies, and wavy potato chips.
Example 2: The city theatre is now playing three popular movies: “A Walk in the Woods,” “Inside Out,” and “Minions.”
- Use a colon to introduce a quotation after an independent clause.
Example 1: The critic’s remarks on her final Broadway performance were cordial: “Her grace and strength looked as though she had only just begun ballet.”
Example 2: Coach Willis cut his usual inspirational speech to only one sentence before our big game: “No matter what happens out there tonight, you’re all champions in my book.”
- Use a colon between two independent clauses when you want to emphasize the second.
Example 1: I don’t typically eat at that restaurant: every main dish is so spicy.
Example 2: I curl up with a good book when it rains: it is a calming experience.
Continue your practice for the TASC test by taking our quiz on semicolons and colons.