Skip main navigation

Punctuation and Professionalism: Semicolons

This video introduces the professionalism of using semicolons.

For more on semicolons:

Read

The Most Feared Punctuation Mark on Earth (The Oatmeal, 2020)

Listen

Divide and Conquer (Revisionist History Podcast, 2018)

Some people have helpfully flagged an error in one of the slides. It involves the misidentification of the author listed below. Post the correct author name in Comments.

  • Mary Sue Evans

Here are some additional pieces of advice about using semicolons. Post your favorite in Comments.

1. “Used well, the semicolon makes a powerful impression; misused, it betrays your ignorance.”

—Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2015)

2. “[William] James’s paragraphs, as lucid and unpretentious as can be, are divided and subdivided, as intricately structured as the anatomical diagrams he includes in ‘Psychology: Briefer Course.’ Semicolons, along with exclamation points and dashes and whole sackfuls of commas, are, for him, vital tools in keeping what he called the ‘stream of thought’ from appearing to the reader as a wild torrent.”

—Ben Dolnick, “Semicolons: A Love Story” (2012)

3. “Think of the semicolon as a long comma, or a wimpy period.”

—Merrill Perlman, To Semicolon, or Not to Semicolon (2015)

This article is from the free online

Writing and Editing: Drafting

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education