Semicolons to extend a sentence

The Quick Answer
A sentence can be extended with a semicolon when a slight break is preferable to a new sentence. (You cannot do the same thing with a comma. That's called a run-on error, and it's a common mistake.)

Merge Two Sentences with a Semicolon

On occasion, a writer may decide that the next sentence is so closely connected to the previous one that a slight break is more appropriate than a new sentence. A semicolon can be used for this purpose.

Examples:
  • No one was seriously hurt in the accident; one man suffered a broken finger.
  • In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. (Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826)
  • Like dear St Francis of Assisi I am wedded to poverty; but in my case the marriage is not a success. (Oscar Wilde)
  • To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness. (Oscar Wilde)
  • The meeting has been rescheduled for 4 o'clock; this reflects the director's new agenda.

slight breaks preferable to new sentences (The semicolons are okay.)
(magazine article)
  • The manager did not approve the plan; he suggested several changes.
  • A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. (Winston Churchill)

Semicolons Can Replace Conjunctions

Semicolons can be used to replace words like and, but and or. (These are called Conjunctions.)

Examples:
  • The manager did not approve the plan; he suggested several changes.
  • (In this example, , but could be written in the place of the semicolon.)

  • Eat oranges throughout the journey; you may catch scurvy.
  • (semicolon replaces , or)

See Also

Extend a sentence Run-on error with a comma Using semicolons before conjunctions (and, or, but, etc.) Using semicolons before transitional phrases (e.g. however) Using semicolons in lists