Semicolon before "And"

Using a Semicolon before "And"

You can use a semicolon before "and" (which is a type of conjunction) when the "and" is used to merge two independent clauses that contain their own commas. For example:
  • Shakespeare, a great dramatist, wrote a great many plays; and he wrote a number of sonnets too. correct tick
  • (Using a semicolon before "and" is an outdated practice, but you can use one if you think it makes your sentence structure clearer.)
semicolon before and, or , but (conjunctions)

More about Semicolon with "And"

A sentence that has two independent clauses is called a compound sentence. Here is an easy example of a compound sentence:
  • I like cakes, and I like pies.
  • (This sentence has two independent clauses (i.e., ones that could stand alone as sentences), making it a compound sentence. The two clauses are joined with the conjunction "and," which is preceded by a comma.)
Read more about conjunctions. With a compound sentence, if at least one of the independent clauses contains commas, it is acceptable to use a semicolon before the "and" instead of a comma. For example:
  • As she said, I like cakes; and I like pies, especially cheese and onion pies.
  • (With this example, the independent clauses contain commas. To outrank those commas, it is acceptable to use a semicolon before the "and.")

More Examples of Semicolons Used before Conjunctions

Of course, this does not just apply to "and." It applies to other conjunctions too (e.g., "but," "or"). Here are some more examples:
  • In fact, rather surprisingly, the majestic pike is hardly used in cooking today; but in Victorian times, pastry-topped pike was a very common dish. correct tick
  • (Here, a semicolon has been used before "but" to outrank the other commas in the sentence.)
  • As the Dutch captain drafted the order banning the killing of the dodos, his sailors had the last one in their sights; and, as the muskets sounded, dodos were gone forever. correct tick
  • Before a war, military science seems a real science, like astronomy; but, after a war, it seems more like astrology. (Author Rebecca West) correct tick

It's Old Fashioned

Many people consider it old fashioned to use a semicolon before "and" these days. However, if you think it makes your sentence structure clearer, then you can use a semicolon before "and."

Coordinating Conjunctions
and Compound Sentences

Words like "and," "but," and "or" are coordinating conjunctions. Sometimes, they are used to join two "sentences" together to form one. When a coordinating conjunction is used in this way, it should be preceded by a comma.
  • She cannot abide tennis, but she loves watching golf. correct tick
  • (Sentence 1 is "She cannot abide tennis." Sentence 2 is "She loves watching golf." The coordinating conjunction "but" merges the two sentences into one, turning the sentences into independent clauses within a compound sentence.)
Here is another example:
  • I may consider your plan, or I may stick with mine. correct tick
  • (Here, "or" is coordinating conjunction.)
When a coordinating conjunction joins two independent clauses, it is usually preceded by a comma. This page is about upgrading that comma to a semicolon to outrank any commas within those clauses.

(NB: The word "coordinate" means "of equal rank." In these sentences, both halves are considered to be the same rank, i.e., they are both independent clauses.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.