When Not to Use a Semicolon

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Semicolons should not be used in most situations unless two independent clauses are being connected, or if there is a list of items where one of the items has a list of its own. Avoid overusing semicolons in writing with advice from a writer and English tutor in this free video on grammar and punctuation.

Part of the Video Series: Grammar & Punctuation
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm here to talk about when not to use a semicolon. Semicolons are pretty easy to use incorrectly and to overuse. They tend to stand out more in sentences. And if you're not sure whether or not to use one, chances are it's better to use something else. It may be a comma, it may be a period, but some other way to arrange a sentence so that you don't use a semicolon. It's probably going to work. There are a few cases where semicolons are the right thing to use -- that is if you are connecting two complete sentences that are related to each other and you don't have one of the seven coordinating conjunctions and a comma in-between them -- if you've just kept them as separate sentences -- then you can use a semicolon between them. You can also use a semicolon if you have a list of items and one of the items on the list is a list itself. It has internal punctuation. Then you'll use a semicolon to connect the items on that list or to separate the items on that list just for clarity, so you're not using too many commas.


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