semi-colons and colons
All sentences have at least 2 elements:
Most sentences have a subject and predicate that contains
falls on the ground.
There are 2 types of clauses:
An independent clause contains a
subject and a predicate, and it can
stand alone as a sentence.
A dependent clause may contain a
subject and a predicate; it needs
an independent clause to make
The rain fell on the ground (IC), which made puddles form
Once upon a time, a princess kissed a frog. The frog was green and ugly,
but the princess didn’t care. The princess knew, better than most, that
people shouldn’t judge appearances. She had a secret, which only her
parents knew: she was actually an enchanted frog. As for the frog, he
thought it was a bit strange for a princess to kiss him; however, he wasn’t
about to stop her as he had also heard the stories.
• To join 2 independent clauses (IC), use a coordinating conjunction (CC:
for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
IC, CC IC.: The frog was green and very ugly, but the princess didn’t
• To join an independent clause (IC) and a dependent clause (DC), use a
subordinate clause (SC: which, because, as, since, so, although, though,
whereas, while, after).
IC, SC DC.: She had a secret, which only her parents knew.
Use a comma:
1. to join 2 independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction (and,
but, or, for, nor, so). Place the comma before the conjunction.
IC, CC IC.: The frog was green and ugly, but the princess didn’t care.
after an introductory phrase, prepositional phrase, or dependent
DC, IC.: Once upon a time, a princess kissed a frog.
Use a comma:
3. to separate non-essential elements from a sentence
IC, DC, continued IC.: The princess knew, better than most, that
people shouldn’t judge appearances.
after a transition (TR)
IC; TR, IC.: The frog thought it was a bit strange for a princess to
kiss him; however, he wasn’t about to stop her as he had also
heard the stories.
Use a comma:
5. to separate elements in a series
My favourite shirts are red, blue, yellow, and green.
Use the serial comma, which comes after the second-to-last list item and before
• Other comma usages:
between coordinate adjectives (adjectives that are equal and
with quoted words (The teacher said, “what are you doing?”)
in a date (Thursday, March 29, 2007)
in a number (10,000)
in a personal title (Ima Student, M.A.)
between a city and provincial/state name (Victoria, B.C.)
Use a semicolon to:
join 2 independent clauses when the second clause restates the first
clause or when the two clauses are of equal emphasis.
IC; IC.: Research is fundamental; theories advance knowledge.
join elements of a series when individual items of the series already
Major cities in Canada include: Vancouver, British Columbia;
Calgary, Alberta; and Toronto, Ontario.
Use a semicolon to:
join 2 independent clauses when the second clause begins with a
conjunctive adverb (CA)* or a transition (TR)** .
IC; CA/TR, IC.: The capital city of British Columbia is Victoria;
however, some people think it should be Vancouver.
Conjunctive adverb: however, therefore, moreover, furthermore, thus,
meanwhile, nonetheless, otherwise
** Transition: in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words,
on the other hand, even so
Use a colon:
1. to join 2 independent clauses when you wish to emphasize the second
IC: IC.: The rain caused considerable flooding in British Columbia:
Highways 1, 1A, 2 and 4 were all closed for five days after the
after an independent clause when it is followed by a list, a quotation,
or other idea directly related to the independent clause.
There are six colours in a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue,
Independent clause. Independent clause.
Independent clause; independent clause.
Independent clause, coordinating conjunction,
IC, CC IC.
Dependent clause, independent clause.
Independent clause, dependent clause,
continuation of independent clause.
IC, DC, IC.
Independent clause, subordinate clause dependent
IC, SC DC.
Independent clause; conjunctive adverb/transition,
IC; CA/TR, IC.
Use semi-colons to separate list items with commas
within the items
I’m going to Calgary, Alberta; Ottawa, Ontario; and
St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Independent clause: independent clause as
emphasis of the first statement.
Independent clause: List/quotation/idea related to
the independent clause.
IC: other information.
Drop by the Writing Centre in the Library
Office hours: 10-5, Monday to Friday
By phone: (250) 391-2600, ext. 4353
Email: [email protected]