Semicolons (;) separate two complete statements that are closely related. As a general rule, if a period will not work, neither will a semicolon. Semicolons also separate items in a series or equal parts of a sentence. 

  1. Show a close relationship
    Use a semicolon to show a close relationship between two complete statements when a period would be too much of an interruption.
    • We should go shopping today; Macy's has a sale.
  2. Instead of a comma 
    As an alternative to a comma and a coordinating conjunction (F.A.N.B.O.Y.S.—for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), use a semicolon to separate two complete statements.
    • John drove to town; Sue went with him.
    • John drove to town, and Sue went with him.
    Always use a semicolon if one of the statements has commas within it.
    • Our marketing director, Diane Jones, needs an assistant; but she will be unable to interview applicants until her return from Alaska on June 7. 
  3. Statements that contrast or show cause and effect
    Use a semicolon to separate two complete statements that contrast or show cause and effect.
    • We did not meet our long–term goals; we did meet our short–term goals.
    • No one came to the meeting; it was not scheduled at a convenient time.
    As an alternative, you can make two sentences.
    • We did not meet our long-term goals. We did meet our short-term goals.
    • No one came to the meeting. It was not scheduled at a convenient time.
  4. Statements separated by transitional phrases
    Use a semicolon between complete statements separated by transitional words or phrases such as however, in fact, in other words, therefore, or nevertheless.
    Use a comma after the transitional word or phrase.
    • Zac graduated with honors; therefore, he was eligible for several scholarships. 
  5. Items in a series that contain internal commas
    If items in a series contain internal commas, use a semicolon to separate the items.
    • We opened new offices in Dallas, Texas; Seattle, Washington; and Naples, Florida.