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The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark with several uses. The Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder established the practice of using the semicolon mark to separate words of opposed meaning, and to indicate interdependent statements.[1] The earliest, general use of the semicolon in English was in 1591; Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use them systematically. The modern uses of the semicolon relate either to the listing of items, or to the linking of related clauses.


English usage

Semicolons are followed by a lower case letter, unless that letter is the first letter of a proper noun. They have no spaces before them, but one space after (possibly two when using monospaced fonts). Applications of the semicolon in English include

  • Between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction
    • "I went to the basketball court; I was told it was closed for cleaning."
    • "I told Ben he's running for the hills; I wonder if he knew I was joking."
    • "Nothing is true; everything is permitted."
    • "A man chooses; a slave obeys."
  • Between independent clauses linked with a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb
    • "Everyone knows that he is guilty of committing the crime; of course, it will never be proven."[2]
    • "Bob's friend was refused admittance by the doorkeeper; as a result, he left before the presentations."
    • "I like to eat fish; however, I don't like to be eaten by them."
    • "I like being odd; yet, I hate being different."
  • Between items in a series or listing containing internal punctuation, especially parenthetic commas, where the semicolons function as serial commas:
    • "She saw three men: Jamie, who came from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man."
    • "Several fast food restaurants can be found within the cities: London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; and Madrid, Spain."
    • "Examples of familiar sequences are: one, two, and three; a, b, and c; and first, second, and third."

Other languages


Semicolon in Arabic is called Fāṣila Manqūṭa (Arabic: فاصلة منقوطة‎) which means literally "a dotted comma", and is written inverted ( ؛ ). In Arabic, the semicolon has several uses:

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