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Colon V/S Semicolon: Understanding the Difference

One of the essential elements of writing is punctuation. The incorrect placement of punctuation marks can misinform the readers by altering the meaning of a sentence. Punctuations enable us to put forth our thoughts organized and meaningfully. Further, it helps in communicating clearly with the readers. That’s how powerful these symbols are! Comma, full stop, exclamation, question marks are some of the commonly used punctuations which people find simple. However, colon v/s semicolon has been a debatable topic.

In this post, we will be discussing the significant differences between these popular but less understood punctuations and where to use which one. So, keep reading till the end.

Also, read: Ultimate English Techniques You Must Know

The History Of Colon V/s Semicolon: How It All Started?

Earlier, a period was the only symbol that used to end a sentence. Besides, a semicolon did a similar job. It was a popularly followed fashion in writing until the 18th century. Afterward, in the 20th century, the colon was introduced, and it replaced both semicolons and periods. In fact, the punctuation guides also started mentioning colons instead of the semicolon symbol. But, the usage was limited to a specific niche. Academic writers and journalists still preferred their traditional writing styles.

Also, read: Compose an Opinion Essay Effectively

So, let’s begin to explore the difference between colon and semicolon.

What’s A Colon?

A colon introduces some information in a sentence and provides it a context. A colon is basically a punctuation mark that consists of two dots, like this ( : ).

Colon is majorly used to highlight the importance of a term that follows it. Further, it helps join independent clauses with a noun or a list. Besides, colons are the only grammatical element if you wish to combine a complete sentence with either a list or a noun.

Simply put, here are the major uses of colons:

  • To introduce something in a list
  • To qualify a sentence
  • To provide character and dialogue

Cases that Explain the Usage of Colon

When a sentence starts with an adverbial clause. For instance: “The party was over when I arrived: it had reached into the small hours.”

Another instance where you can use a colon is a complex series where the item makes for the complete sentence and stands as a complete sentence prior to another conjunction or end punctuation. Here’s an example: “I went to the store; I bought rice, noodles, and cookies; I went home.”

Cases Where You Cannot Use a Colon

We use a colon if a sentence starts right with an adverbial independent clause. For an example: “When I entered, the party was done. Since I didn’t want to spoil my mood, I decided to leave for home early.”

Now, let us look at another situation. A series where each item doesn’t result in a complete sentence. For instance, “I went to the store, bought rice, noodles, and cookies, and returned home.”

If you still have doubts about what a colon is and how to use it perfectly in a sentence, then it’s best to take assignment help from a specialist.

What Is A Semicolon?

A Semicolon is meant to combine two independent clauses together and form a detailed sentence. The purpose is to show that they share a close relationship with each other. The semicolon consists of a dot right above a comma ( ; ).

Let us discuss on it with an example:

“My favourite dish is salmon sausage with peanut sauce and crusty bread; these foods remind me of my mother’s cooking.”

Can you see how beautifully semicolon join two distinct sentences? It helps paint a complete and meaningful picture that wouldn’t have been possible had they been separate. Hence, it’s ideal to say that semicolon helps communicate a much deeper relationship.

You may perceive it as a shorthand for conjunction. Want to know how? Here’s an example: “My favourite dish is salmon sausage with peanut sauce and crusty bread because these foods remind me of my mother’s cooking.”

It’s time to discuss different cases to understand the actual usage of a semicolon. It would certainly help you grasp how colon v/s semicolon works.

Know about: Conclusion Starters

Cases Where a Semicolon Could Be Used

Any sentence that has an adverbial independent clause can have a semicolon. Here’s an example of the same:

“When I reached; the party was already over.”

Further, you can use a semicolon in a series of sentences having internal punctuation within the list of one per item. For instance:

“I went to the store; I bought noodles, cookies, and noodles; I returned home; I made dinner.”

Cases that Explain Where Semicolon Cannot Be Used

A sentence that starts with an adverbial independent clause. Here’s a direct example to simplify this idea:

“When I arrived, the party was almost over.”

Another instance involves using a semicolon in a simple series where each item doesn’t complete the sentence. Let’s discuss it with an example:

“I went to the store, and I bought rice, noodles, and cookies.”

This explains that in case of ambiguity about if the items within a list are separate sentences or not, a comma is recommended rather than a semicolon.

Also read: 25 Essential Language Features and Techniques

Colon V/S Semicolon Examples: How to Use Them Correctly?

Examples to Simplify the Usage of Colon

  • We already knew who’d be the winner in the game: the Scorpions
  • I bought a lot of snacks at the store: burgers, fries, noodles, and soda.
  • He doesn’t care for anyone: he is the prime example of selfishness.
  • The world is a stage: you must know how to play your role well.
  • Never forget this advice: think before you speak.
  • Several movie genres interest me: science fiction, comedy, thriller, and drama.

Examples to Simplify the Usage of Semicolon

  • I ate a lot in the afternoon; however, I am hungry again.
  • She calls it the loo; I call it the bathroom.
  • She moved to Switzerland; she preferred the scenic and tranquil landscapes over busting cities.
  • This one is an old typewriter; all the keys are intact.
  • My mother is getting bald; her hair is thinning by reaps and bounds.
  • We made too many mistakes; we lost the challenge.

Right Way to Use Colon and Semicolon According To American V/s British English

In British English, we can not use capital is not after a colon. However, Americans always capitalize the first letter of the word that follows the colon in case it precedes an independent clause in the sentence.

When it comes to semicolon usage, both British and American English users follow the same set of rules. There’s no need to capitalize the first letter of the word followed by a semicolon. You only need to do that if it appears as a part of an acronym or describes a proper noun.

Final Words

The two major punctuation marks are highly important for grammatically correct sentences. Both are useful for separating and linking items in a list. Thus, it’s advisable to always stick to certain guidelines while using colons or semicolons. However, there are no strict rules to define their appropriate usage in grammar. You need to pay attention to the individual sentences and clauses to understand the specific patterns and how they appear rather than perceiving them as connectors or separators. Thus, it’s best to focus on what you wish to communicate to the readers. We hope we could clarify the distinction between colon v/s semicolons for you!

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