A semicolon indicates two closely related statements, but which words can you use after a semicolon? Can you use the conjunctions “and” or “but”?
This breakdown will show you everything you should know about correct semicolon placement with examples. Learn the conjunctions, adverbs, and transitional phrases you can and cannot use after a semicolon.
What is a Semicolon
A semicolon or semi-colon (;) is a punctuation mark that relates two ideas together. It signals a pause longer than a comma but less extensive than a period.
Semicolons always join two independent clauses or simple sentences to form one whole sentence.
Semicolon Before “And”
Many writers wonder, can you use “and” after a semicolon? Adding a semicolon before “and” is an outdated practice because its purpose is to replace words like “and.”
Although, you can use it to make your sentence structure clearer. Less conventional writers use a semicolon to place a natural emphasis on the conjunction and to convey a specific tone. Even though it’s sometimes called pretentious, which I don’t agree with, especially in Fantasy writing.
- Betty’s husband wrote a heartfelt vow; and he sang to her.
- Augusta likes making soup on cold winter nights; and she makes hot chocolate for the kids.
Semicolon Before “But”
The same rule for “and” applies to semicolons before “but.” You can add the coordinating conjunction “but” if it will make the sentence’s meaning clearer.
- Only a few artists use this material for painting now; but it was famous during the Renaissance.
Using A Comma After “However”
An alternative to a sentence that uses “; but” is the use of “However” and then a comma.
- Only a few artists use this material for painting. However, it was famous during the Renaissance period.
Other Words to Use After a Semicolon
You can use all coordinating conjunctions after a semicolon as they represent the start of main clauses. Remember the acronym FANBOYS:
Here are more examples of semicolons used before conjunctions.
- Camille did not join the meeting; nor did she call her secretary.
- Krista lied about her whereabouts; yet her mother forgave her.
Transitional phrases and conjunctive adverbs can also be used with semicolons. Here are some examples:
- After all.
- As a matter of fact.
- As a result.
- In addition.
- For example.
- In other words.
- On the other hand.
When Not to Use Coordinating Conjunctions with a Semicolon
A compound sentence with two clauses and a semicolon can have a clear relationship without the conjunction. If this is the case, delete the conjunction and maintain the semicolon.
- Incorrect version: Do not buy the new version if you already have the previous one; and you’ll thank me later.
- Correct version: Do not buy the new version if you already have the previous one; you’ll thank me later.
How to Use a Semicolon in a List
A semicolon also functions as a divider for complex series or lists. But it can be confusing whether it goes before or after “and” in the list.
The “and” for the last item goes after the semicolon. Here are some examples.
- I want to go to Paris, France; Los Angeles, California; London, England; and Venice, Italy.
- My weekend plans include visiting my parents; grocery shopping for them; going to dinner with Max, Joe, and Rachel; and finishing my current favorite TV show.
Semicolon Placement Summary
It’s much better to omit the coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) when using a semicolon. But if it clarifies your sentence structure, feel free to keep it.
Other words you can use after a semicolon include conjunctive adverbs and transitional phrases. You can also use a semicolon when creating lists, ensuring that “and” comes after it.