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Writing tip

Semicolons ; v : Colons

These punctuation marks are so often confused. The poor semicolon (;) is misused almost as often as the apostrophe.

Here’s your quick guide to using the ; (semicolon) and the : (colon).

Writing and avoiding punctuation confusion. Here's our quick writing tip on when – and when not to – use colons and semicolons, without the confusing grammar theory #colons #colonorsemicolon #writingtips

Semicolons ( ; )

  1. Indicate a pause bigger than a comma and smaller than a full stop; the section of text on either side of the semicolon should be able to stand alone as its own sentence. See example 1.
  2. Separate items in a list that require a comma. See example 2.

A semicolon should never be used before bullet points.

Colons ( : )

  • Come before an explanation, which can include a list (eg bullet points) or an example: just like this sentence. See example 2.


  1. I travel frequently for business; I believe meeting in person is more efficient than Skype or email.
  2. When preparing for a business trip, I always write a list which includes: what to pack; my flight, hotel and taxi itineraries; people I’ll be meeting, such as friends or colleagues; best restaurants; and things to do on the weekend.

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