Semicolons may be used to separate sequences of a sentence in two special circumstances.

  • Long sentences with many commas

    If a sentence is so long and so full of commas that it cannot be easily understood, use a semicolon to mark the most important break in the sentence.

    Small_OK At the university, where budget cuts have threatened programmes, students, despite warnings about disrupting classes, are occupying buildings; and the teaching and non-teaching staff, whether or not they support the student demands, are unable to enter the faculties where they work.
  • Long or grammatically complex lists

    Use semicolons to separate long or grammatically complex items in a list, or to make them more conspicuous than they are with commas. For example, use commas with a list of persons, places or dates, but use semicolons when the items are reasons, examples or findings.

    Small_OK The main arguments for passing the university statutes are: their reflection of changes in higher education; the flexibility of the language used in them; and the absence of sound reasons for rejecting them.

    When items in a series involve internal punctuation, separate them by semicolons for the sake of clarity.

    Small_OK The membership of the committee was as follows: PDI, 4; PAS, 5;students, 3.

    However, it is often better to split a very long sentence into two separate sentences.

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