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Semicolons and Commas

When is it appropriate to use a semicolon and when should I use a comma? This is something I struggle with in both my personal and professional writing.

When two independent clauses are linked with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), a comma is added before the second clause.

Example:
I wanted to talk this afternoon, but my meeting took longer than expected.

Semicolons:
A semicolon is used to link two independent clauses that are closely related. No connecting words (like coordinating conjunctions) are used.

Example:
I have a big presentation tomorrow; I will go home early to prepare.

In the above example, the semicolon is not necessary. A period could have been placed after “tomorrow.” However, the semicolon points out the relationship between the two sentences. It can also be used to add variety to your sentence structure.

Using Both:
When connecting two independent clauses with conjunctive adverbs (however, therefore, etc.), both a semicolon and a comma are needed.

Example:
Jane planned to email her team members in the morning; however, her internet was disconnected due to the storm.

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