; A semicolon:
- Is a long pause that balances two related ideas. Example: She went by train; she would rather have flown.
- Adjoins two main clauses containing opposite ideas. Example: She is efficient; he is disorganised.
- Adjoins two main clauses where there is no conjunction. Example: My laptop is broken; I can’t transmit the document.
- Can separate items in a list when the items already contain commas. Example: Attendees included the CEO, Jeff Davis and his son, Tristan; the MD, Fred Khumalo, and his wife, Susan; and Harriet and Kosi from the PR agency.
- May be replaced by a full stop or by the conjunctions: and, but, so, for, although.
: A colon:
- Indicates that a list will follow.
- Indicates that an idea, or an explanation, will follow. Example: There is one thing that separates writers from talkers: writers write.
- Indicates dialogue. Example: James said: ‘You’re a wonderful woman, Sarah.’
- Indicates a direct quotation. Example: Freud once said: ‘There is nothing wrong with blaming your mother.’
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