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Writing Style

Semicolons (P-SC)

Use semicolons to create a pause longer than a comma in a sentence. Semicolons show that the relationship between two or more statements is close enough for them to be in the same sentence but not close enough to use a comma.

Watch this lesson on semicolons in our LC elearning modules class in D2L.

Three Main Uses of Semicolons
1. Transitional word or phrase joining two independent clauses (APA, p. 156, 6.4 "Semicolon")
The incidence of breast cancer is high in both developing and developed countries; however, there is a great variation in distribution of breast cancer in different regions.

More information on transition word use can be found in the LC guide for "Organizing Ideas." 


2. One or more items in a list has commas (APA, p. 189, 6.49 "List Guidelines")
Arksey and O’Malley’s (2005) framework includes six stages: identifying the initial research question; identifying relevant studies; study selection; charting the data; collecting, summarizing, and reporting the results; and conducting a consultation exercise.  

Watch this video on using semi-colons within lists in our LC elearning modules class in D2L.


3. Two or more sources cited in one set of parentheses (APA, p. 263, 8.12 "Citing Multiple Works")
When patients are more satisfied, they are expected to provide a more detailed medical history (Bayne et al., 2013Epstein et al, 2005).



Watch this 4-minute video about using semi-colons.

TED-Ed. (2015, July 6). How to  use a semicolon -- Emma Bryce [Video]. YouTube.


More Information

"The Semicolon," Robin L. Simmons

"Basic Grammar and Punctuation: Semi-colons / Colons," St. Petersburg College


American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).