Grammar Made Easy – How to Use a Semicolon vs. Colon

Grammar Made Easy - How to Use Semicolon vs. Colon

Have you ever wanted to emphasize a break in a sentence, but a comma just wasn’t strong enough?

Do you ever feel like you overuse commas?

Last week, we published an article all about grammar called Supercharge Your Blog Articles and Woo Your Readers by Increasing your Grammar IQ. In that article, I asked you what your grammar issues were; today, I plan on answering that.

One of our readers wrote that her grammar issues are the colon (:) and the semicolon (;). I went to work and started researching. Today, I would like to demystify the colon and semicolon just like we demystified that dirty word grammar.

Semicolon vs. Colon

I love that the colon and semicolon have been brought into question for a few reasons,

  • The use of colons and semicolons is declining: most likely because people don’t know how to use them.
  • Colons and semicolons are a great way to break up a sentence and communicate that sentence with more power than a comma.
  • When you use colons and semicolons, you come off as a grammar genius.

Colon and Semicolons Add To Your Blog Articles Readability

Bloggers everywhere are giving advice on how to increase the readability of your articles. I don’t want to add to the noise, however, I cannot help but highlight the beneficial role that semicolon and colons can offer.

How to Use the Colon (:)

According to Oxford Dictionaries, there are really 3 main uses for the colon.

  1. Use a colon between two main clauses when the second clause is explaining or following the first. You can see an example of this from earlier in the article.

    In the example, which I’ve italicized below, I have used a colon to explain the use of semicolons and colons is declining because people don’t know how to use them.

    “The use of colons and semicolons is declining: people don’t know how to use them anymore.”

  2. Another common use is to introduce a list. For example,

    “There are three countries I want to visit: France, Italy, and New Zealand.”

  3. The final use is before a quotation and sometimes before the direct speech. For example,
    • “The headline read: ‘Use Colons to Increase Your Blog’s Readability’.”
    • “They shouted: ‘We love colons! We love grammar!’”

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tip:

Another great resource for trying to decipher grammar rules is Grammar Girl. When it comes to colons, Grammar Girl writes that you should be able to replace a colon with the word ‘namely’.
Quick Note: Notice how easy to read these examples are?

How to Use Semicolons (;)

Here are 3 ways to use semicolons.

  1. The main role for a semicolon is to separate something and illustrate their close relation. Here are some tips,
    • The semicolon separates two main clauses.
    • Each clause could be made into its own sentence.
    • The semicolon is used to highlight the relationship between the two sentences.

    Here is another example from above,

    • “In that article, I asked you what your grammar issues were; today, I plan on answering that.”
  2. Another role for a semicolon is to create a stronger division in a sentence that is full of commas.

    For example,

    • “I want to visit five cities: Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Soho, London; New York City, and Auckland, New Zealand.
  3. According to Grammar Girl, you can use a semicolon when you are joining two main clauses with a conjunctive adverb.

    Conjunctive Adverbs: These are words like however, therefore, indeed. They often times show cause and effect, sequences, comparison, and contrast.

    Let’s change the example for the first way,

    • “In that article, I asked you what your grammar issues were; today, I plan on answering that.”

    and let’s add a conjunctive adverb,

    • “In that article, I asked you what your grammar issues were; therefore, today, I plan on answering that.”

    Bringing It Home

    In no way is this an exhaustive list of how to use semicolons and colons. The goal of this article is to point out,

    • How using semicolons and colons can help make your blog articles easier to read,
    • Show off your grammar skills,
    • Take the scare out of these two little punctuations.

    This week, while writing your blog articles, would you step out with your grammar and try using either the colon or semicolon? If you accept this challenge, leave your sentence and a link to that blog article in the comment section below.

    Have a wonderful week everyone and happy blogging.

Christine King is a staff writer at R & R Web Design LLC. She is passionate about writing and loves what blogging and businesses can achieve. Armed with her degree in social work, she brings the unique ability to motivate readers in every blog article she writes. She specializes in creating content and writing blog articles for a variety of businesses at R & R Web Design LLC.

This article was published on: September 1, 2014 and was last modified November 28, 2017
4 comments on “Grammar Made Easy – How to Use a Semicolon vs. Colon
  1. Andrew Healey says:

    Excellent post, Christine. There sure is confusion when it comes to colons and semi colons. For example, many writers use a semi colon to introduce lists. Your post clarifies things nicely.

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Semicolons and colons are two of those grammar issues that we’ve all learned at some point but are easy to forget. I know I need this article as much as the next blogger. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. Debbie says:

    Christine how true it is that it sometimes is difficult to know whether to use a colon vs a semicolon. When I submit something to for example, a newspaper, I do strive for perfection so that the editor does not think I do not know, what I believe they would consider simple grammar. Now a dangling participle still has me a bit baffled. If you have the chance, I would appreciate an explanation. The name of it alone is ridiculous.I am sure everyone would agree. Happy Grammaring to all!

  3. Hi Debbie,
    Thanks for stopping by. Sometimes it takes a really fine-toothed comb to catch all those little “simple grammar” errors. I’m excited you asked about the dangling participle. I’ll look into it right away, so stay tuned for a blog article about them. 🙂 Thanks again, Debbie.

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