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Write Right

Writing Tip of the Week

Have a question about the semicolon or colon? Use the 8 Tips on the Semicolon and Colon below as your guide.


1. In place of a period

Use a semicolon in place of a period.

2. In place of a comma

Use a semicolon in place of a comma, for it can serve as the same function--to keep your words and ideas from running together, making your writing easier to read.

3. To separate phrases

Use the semicolon to separate a series of phrases that have commas.

Jasmine, a great cook, uses fresh food in her meals; grows her own fruits, vegetables, and grains; and serves spring water, herbal tea and wine produced locally.

4. Between independent clauses.

Use a semicolon to join two or more independent clauses that aren't connected with a coordinating conjunction.

She woke up in the middle of the night; someone was at the door.


5. To introduce a list

Use a colon to introduce a list.

In her garden, Jasmine grew the following vegetables: pumpkins, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, squash, potatoes, and cabbages.

6. As a formal introduction.

Use a colon to introduce an important quotation in a news story, for instance.

In his apology to the N.L. residential school survivors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: "We share this burden with you by fully accepting our responsibilities and our failings--as a government and as a country."

7. After a salutation

Use a colon after the salutation of a business letter.

Dear Ms. Michalski:

8. Between numbers in time

Use a colon between the parts of a number that indicate time.

The movie begins at 6:30 p.m.

The restaurant reservation was set for 7:15 p.m.

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