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How to use a semicolon - Emma Bryce

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TEDEd Animation

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It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity crisis. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that’s why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti; we’re confused about how to use them properly. Emma Bryce clarifies best practices for the semi-confusing semicolon.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

What’s so special about the semicolon? This source will give you an overview of this valuable punctuation mark and how to use it. Grammar Girl’s guide is useful too; it explains the difference between a colon and a semicolon, when it’s appropriate to use a comma and when you should use a semicolon instead.

Here are tips on how to use semicolons in lists. This video guide explains how to connect independent clauses using this punctuation mark. If you need help understanding exactly what an independent clause is, this page can help out—and it provides some useful examples too. Here’s another great source that lists coordinating conjunctions and explains what they are (so you can identify these words, and avoid placing semicolons before them.)

Finally, test out your newfound knowledge with these semicolon practice sentences, and you’ll be using them properly in no time.

For more about proper punctuation, watch this TED Ed lesson: Grammar’s great divide: The Oxford comma.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Emma Bryce
  • Animator Henry Chung, Mark Storer, Noel Wong
  • Composer Tom Jordan
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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