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How to Use Semicolons

A memory trick and helpful chart.

By
Mignon Fogarty
September 22, 2009
Episode #189

Page 4 of 4

Coordinating Conjunctions Versus Conjunctive Adverbs

Sometimes people seem frustrated because they have to remember to use commas with coordinating conjunctions and semicolons with conjunctive adverbs most of the time. If you can't keep the difference straight in your head, it can help to remember that commas are smaller than semicolons and go with coordinating conjunctions, which are almost always short two- or three-letter words—small words, small punctuation mark.

Semicolons are bigger and they go with conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases, which are almost always longer than three letters—bigger words, bigger punctuation. I'll put a list of the different kinds of connectors on the website.

The Grammar Devotional

Also, my second book, The Grammar Devotional, is available in stores now. It's a good idea to follow me on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for my free grammar tip e-mail newsletter. I'm @grammargirl at Twitter and my Facebook page is facebook.com/GrammarGirl.

References

1. Wikipedia contributors. "Conjunctive Adverb," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Conjunctive_adverb&oldid=108619955 (accessed February 23, 2007).

 
Common Coordinating Conjunctions
Common Conjunctive Adverbs
Common Transitional Phrases

Use these with commas to join main clauses

Use these with semicolons to join main clauses

Use these with semicolons to join main clauses

and
accordingly
after all
but
again
as a matter of fact
nor
also
as a result
or
besides
at any rate
so
consequently
at the same time
yet
finally
even so
for
furthermore
for example
 
hence
for instance
 
however
in addition
 
incidentally
in conclusion
 
indeed
in fact
 
likewise
in other words
 
moreover
in the first place
 
namely
in the meantime
 
nevertheless
of course
 
nonetheless
on the contrary
 
otherwise
on the other hand
 
similarly
 
 
still
 
 
that is
 
 
then
 
 
therefore
 
 
thus
 

More Semicolon-Related Reading

France Debates the Future of the Semicolon (April 4, 2008)
The End of the Line? (April 7, 2008)

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