Semicolons and Colons

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Semicolons in a Series

When the items in a series themselves contain commas, separate the items with semicolons. Incorrect: We visited Erie, Pennsylvania, Buffalo, New York, and Toronto, Ontario. (Confusing. Semicolons needed to make clear distinctions.) Correct: We visited Erie, Pennsylvania; Buffalo, New York; and Toronto, Ontario.

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Semicolons with Clauses

Semicolons are used to separate independent clauses in three different cases. 1. When there are no conjunctions separating the clauses. Incorrect: I like you, John likes you, too. (Semicolon needed) Correct: I like you; John likes you, too. 2. When the clauses are separated by a conjunctive adverb or other parenthetical expression set off by

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Colons with Lists

Use a colon before a list when the list is preceded by a complete independent clause. Never use a colon to separate a preposition from its objects or a verb from its complements. Some form of the word follow usually indicates a colon before the list. Correct: John has all the ingredients: minced clams, milk,

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Colons Before Quotations

Colons introduce quotations that are formal or lengthy. Correct: Dickens wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” (Formal quotation) Colons introduce quotations that do not begin with a “he said/she said” clause. Correct: Alexandra took the microphone: “Your honor, I object.” (Clause preceding quotation does not have a verb

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Colons Separating Independent Clauses

Colons may be used to separate independent clauses that are not separated by a conjunction or any other connecting word or phrase. Semicolons are normally used, but the colon adds emphasis, especially if the first clause leads into the second clause or has a parallel construction. The second clause begins with a capital letter. Correct:

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