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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (March 21, 2008)

Colon or Semicolon?

First off, the semicolon ( ; ) is not interchangeable with a colon ( : ). Colons are useful for introducing lists, for example. "The spring flowers came in three colours: yellow, white and red."

You might also use a colon to set off an important word or expression. "The reason he is in jail is simple: greed."

A semicolon has a number of uses, but the most important one is to separate two related but independent clauses. The most common construction looks this way: "He started as an apprentice; however, soon he earned his journeyman's papers."

Learning to use the semicolon and colon correctly offers a writer the opportunity to communicate with greater clarity and efficiency. Use them well!


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