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Connecting Sentences with Commas and Semicolons

Many of you have been asking for help with punctuating between sentences. You want to know when you should use a comma and when you need a semicolon. Here are a few rules with examples that I hope you find very helpful.

Commas

Rule: Use a comma between two complete, long clauses (two subject and verb pairs) when conjunctions such as and, or, but, for, or nor connect them.

Example: I have painted the entire house, but she is still working on sanding the floors.

Rule: If the independent clauses are short (your call), then leave out the comma.

Example: I painted and he sanded.

Rule: If you have only one clause (one subject and verb pair), do not use a comma in front of the conjunction.

Example: I have painted the house but still need to sand the floors.

This sentence has two verbs but only one subject, so it has only one clause.

Semicolons

So when does the semicolon get to have its time in the spotlight?

Rule: Use a semicolon if you have two independent clauses you are connecting without a conjunction.

Example: I have painted the house; I still need to sand the floors.

Rule: Use a semicolon when you have commas for smaller separations, and you need the semicolon to show a bigger separation.

Example: We had a reunion with family from Salt Lake City, Utah; Los Angeles, California; and Albany, New York.

For more helpful comma rules, click here. For more semicolon rules, click here.

Due to the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's "Grammar Blog."


Pop Quiz

Select the correctly punctuated sentence.

1a. I attend the fashion shows and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
1b. I attend the fashion shows, and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
1c. I attend the fashion shows; and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.

2a. I love fashion and he loves jazz.
2b. I love fashion, and he loves jazz.
2c. I love fashion; and he loves jazz.

3a. I attend the fashion shows but not the jazz clubs.
3b. I attend the fashion shows, but not the jazz clubs.
3c. I attend the fashion shows; but not the jazz clubs.

4a. I attend the fashion shows my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
4b. I attend the fashion shows, my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
4c. I attend the fashion shows; my husband goes to the jazz clubs.

5a. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.
5b. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market, apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market, and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.
5c. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market; apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market; and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.


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Wordplay

A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.


Pop Quiz Answers

Correct sentence in bold.

1a. I attend the fashion shows and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
1b. I attend the fashion shows, and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
1c. I attend the fashion shows; and my husband goes to the jazz clubs.

2a. I love fashion and he loves jazz.
2b. I love fashion, and he loves jazz.
2c. I love fashion; and he loves jazz.

3a. I attend the fashion shows but not the jazz clubs.
3b. I attend the fashion shows, but not the jazz clubs.
3c. I attend the fashion shows; but not the jazz clubs.

4a. I attend the fashion shows my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
4b. I attend the fashion shows, my husband goes to the jazz clubs.
4c. I attend the fashion shows; my husband goes to the jazz clubs.

5a. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.
5b. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market, apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market, and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.
5c. I buy cheese, milk, and eggs at my neighborhood market; apples, oranges, and grapes from the farmersí market; and aspirin, shaving cream, and deodorant from the pharmacy.


68 One-Minute English Usage Videos

English In A Snap: 68 One-Minute English Usage Videos FREE 

Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.


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