Do not use too many semicolons in your writing. They get annoying quickly. Here are three scenarios when it would be acceptable to use a semicolon instead of a period (full stop):
(Scenario 1) When your two sentences feel like cause and effect.
If you could merge your two sentences into one with a word like "because" or "as" (called subordinating conjunctions), then consider a semicolon.
I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; because had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes. (Playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay)
(Scenario 2) When your two sentences have similar structures and deliberate repetition.
You don't pay taxes; they take taxes. (Comedian Chris Rock)
Write with the door closed; rewrite with the door open. (Author Stephen King)
(Scenario 3) When your two sentences could be merged with a comma and a conjunction, e.g., "and," "or," "but," "for," "so" (especially "but," "for," and "so").
Go not to the elves for counsel; they will say both no and yes.
(This is acceptable.)
Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.
(This is original text by JRR Tolkien. Note the comma and "for.")
(3) To Create a Smooth Transition into a Sentence Starting with a Transitional Phrases
This point is closely related to the last one. Often, when merging two sentences into one, the second sentence will start with a transitional phrase (or a conjunctive adverb as it's called). Common ones are "as a result," "consequently," "therefore," and "however."
A conjunctive adverb usually starts with a capital letter and follows a period (full stop), but it is possible to create a smoother transition by replacing the period with a semicolon. For example:
She broke her toe. As a result, the game was cancelled.
She broke her toe; as a result, the game was cancelled.
Here is another example:
Vacation used to be a luxury. However, in today's world, it's become a necessity.
Vacation used to be a luxury; however, in today's world, it's become a necessity.
Note: You cannot do this with a comma.
She broke her toe, as a result, the game was cancelled.
Vacation used to be a luxury, however, in today's world, it's become a necessity.
(4) Using a Semicolon to Merge Two Comma-filled Sentences Joined with a Conjunction
It is common to merge two sentences into one using a conjunction (a word like "and," "or," "but"). For example:
Lee likes cake. He likes pies.
Lee likes cake, and he likes pies.
(Here, the conjunction "and" has been used to merge the two "sentences" into one. NB: The sentences are now independent clauses.)
When this happens, it is normal to use a comma before the conjunction.
However, when the "sentences" themselves contain commas, it is possible to outrank those commas by using a semicolon before the conjunction instead of a comma. For example:
At the end of the day, Lee likes cake; and he likes, well, actually prefers, pies.
(This is quite an outdated practice, but you can use a semicolon for this purpose if you think it'll help your readers.)
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