To link independent clauses: The semicolon can replace such conjunctions as and, but, or for:

  • The package was due last week; it arrived today.

To clarify a series: Semicolons can shed light in a series that contains internal commas:

  • He leaves a son, John Smith of Chicago; two daughters, Jane Smith of Wichita, Kansas, and Mary Smith of Denver, Colorado; and a sister, Rochelle Glick of Sweet Lips, Tennessee. (Note: the semicolon also appears before the and in such a series.)

Even when a conjunction is present, use a semicolon before it if the individual clauses contain internal commas:

  • They pulled their boats from the water, sandbagged the retaining walls, and boarded up the windows; but even with these precautions, the island was hard-hit by the hurricane.