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   » » Wiki: Semicolon
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The semicolon or semi colon ( ;) is a mark that separates major sentence elements. A semicolon can be used between two closely related independent , provided they are not already joined by a coordinating conjunction. Semicolons can also be used in place of commas to separate items in a list, particularly when the elements of that list contain commas.

The first printed semicolon was the work of the printer the Elder in 1494.
(2019). 9781592400874, Gotham Books.
Manutius established the practice of using the semicolon to separate of opposed meaning and to allow a rapid change in direction in connecting statements.
(2019). 9781592400874
was the first notable English writer to use the semicolon systematically. The modern uses of the semicolon relate either to the listing of items or to the linking of related .

Although terminal marks (i.e. , , and ) mark the end of a sentence, the , semicolon and colon are normally sentence-internal, making them secondary boundary marks. The semicolon falls between terminal marks and the comma; its strength is equal to that of the colon. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Chapter 19, § 7.

  1. When a semicolon marks the left boundary of a constituent (e.g. the beginning of a clause or a phrase), the right boundary is marked by punctuation of equal or greater strength.
  2. When two or more semicolons are used within a single construction, all constituents are at the same level, unlike commas, which can separate, for example, subordinate clauses from main clauses.

Semicolons are followed by a letter, unless that letter would ordinarily be capitalized mid-sentence (e.g., the word "I", acronyms/initialisms, or ). Modern recommend no space before them and one space after. They also typically recommend placing semicolons outside ending , although this was not always the case. For example, the first edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (1906) recommended placing the semicolon inside ending quotation marks.

Applications of the semicolon in English include:

  • Between items in a series or listing containing internal , especially parenthetic commas, where the semicolons function as :
    • The people present were Jamie, a man from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man with no friends.
    • Several fast food restaurants can be found within the following cities: London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; Madrid, Spain.
    • Here are three examples of familiar sequences: one, two, and three; a, b, and c; first, second, and third.
    • (Fig. 8; see also plates in Harley 1941, 1950; Schwab 1947).
  • Between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a coordinating conjunction, when the two clauses are balanced, opposed or contradictory:
    • My wife would like tea; I would prefer coffee.
    • I went to the basketball court; I was told it was closed for cleaning.
    • I told Kate she's running for the hills; I wonder if she knew I was joking.
:Either clause may include commas; this is especially common when parallel wording is omitted from the second:
* Ted has two dogs; Sam, one.
  • When a comma replaces a period (full stop) in a quotation, or when a quotation otherwise links two independent sentences:
    • "I have no use for this," he said; "you are welcome to it."
    • "Is this your book?" she asked; "I found it on the floor."A period (full stop) may also be used here:
  • "I have no use for this," he said. "You are welcome to it."
  • "Is this your book?" she asked. "I found it on the floor."

Other languages

In , the semicolon is called Filament Manque (فاصلة منقوطة) which means literally "a dotted comma", and is written inverted ( ؛ ). In Arabic, the semicolon has several uses:
  • It can be used between two phrases, in which the first phrase causes the second.
    • Example: "He played much; so, his clothes became dirty". (لقد لعب كثيرًا؛ فاتسخت ملابسه.), (He played a lot;)
  • It can be used between two phrases, where the second is a reason for the first.
    • Example: "Your sister did not get high marks; because she didn't study". (لم تحقق أختك درجات عالية؛ لأنها لم تدرس .), (Your sister did not achieve high grades; she did not study)

Greek, Church Slavonic
In and Church Slavonic, a semicolon indicates a question, similar to a Latin . To indicate a long pause or separate sections, each with commas (the semicolon's purpose in English), Greek uses, but extremely rarely, the "άνω τελεία", an ( · ).

Church Slavonic example: гдѣ єсть рождeйсѧ царь їудeйскій; (Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? - Matthew 2:1)

In , a semicolon ( point-virgule, literally 'dot-comma') is a separation between two full sentences, used where either a colon or a comma would not be appropriate. The phrase following a semicolon has to be an independent clause, which is related to the previous one (but not explaining it, contrary to a sentence introduced by a colon).

The character is used in French writing too, but not as widely as the semicolon. Usage of these devices (semicolon and dash) varies from author to author.

Some authors have spurned the semicolon throughout their works. stated that " spliced his way merrily through such novels as Molloy and Malone Dies, thumbing his nose at the semicolon all the way," " preferred the colon, as he thought it was more authentically classical; P. G. Wodehouse did an effortlessly marvelous job without it; tried to avoid the semicolon completely in Coming Up for Air, (1939);" " included just one semicolon in Money (1984);" and " was congratulated by an academic reader for using no semicolons in The Name of the Rose (1983)."
(2019). 9781592400874, Gotham Books.
In response to Truss, , columnist in (London), wrote: "Americans have long regarded the semi-colon with suspicion, as a genteel, self-conscious, neither-one-thing-nor-the other sort of punctuation mark, with neither the butchness of a full colon nor the flighty promiscuity of the comma. and and wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch with a semi-colon (though might). Real men, goes the unwritten rule of American punctuation, don’t use semi-colons." In A Man Without a Country, writes that semicolons are "transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college."
(2019). 9780747584063, Bloomsbury.

Encoding in digital media
Scripts comprising wide characters, such as , use a full-width equivalent, , located at Unicode code point U+FF1B (fullwidth semicolon).

characters are allocated for:

  • - same as the semicolon character is 94 or .
  • -
  • - used in old writing systems, such as
  • - Ge'ez script
  • -
  • - for use in wide-character scripts such as
  • - determines orientation when wide-character scripts are written vertically instead of horizontally
  • - Small Form Variants are for compatibility with Chinese National Standard CNS 11643
  • - used in the APL programming language
  • - "indicates sudden glottal closure"
  • - deprecated tags block

Related characters:

Computing usage

In computer programming, the semicolon is often used to separate multiple statements (for example, in , Pascal, PL/I, and ; see ). In other languages, semicolons are called terminators and are required after every statement (such as in Java, and the C family). Today semicolons as terminators has largely won out, but this was a divisive issue in programming languages from the 1960s into the 1980s.
(1997). 9780136291558
An influential and frequently-cited study in this debate was , which concluded strongly in favor of semicolon as a terminator:

The study has been criticized as flawed by proponents of semicolon as a separator, due to participants being familiar with a semicolon-as-terminator language and unrealistically strict grammar. Nevertheless, the debate ended in favor of semicolon as terminator. Therefore, semicolon provides structure to the programming language.

Semicolons are optional in a number of languages, including , Eiffel, and Go, meaning that they are part of the formal grammar for the language, but can be inferred in many or all contexts (e.g. by end of line that ends a statement (in Go)). As languages can be designed without them, semicolons are considered an unnecessary nuisance by some.

The use of semicolons in control flow structures and blocks of code is varied  – semicolons are generally omitted after a closing brace, but included for a single statement branch of a control structure (the "then" clause), except in Pascal, where a semicolon terminates the entire if...then...else clause (to avoid ) and thus is not allowed between a "then" and the corresponding "else", as this causes unnesting.

This use originates with ALGOL 60, and falls between the comma (,) – used as a list separator – and the period/full stop (.) – used to mark the end of the program. The semicolon, as a mark separating statements, corresponds to the ordinary English usage of separating independent clauses, and gives the entire program the gross syntax of a single ordinary sentence. Of these other characters, whereas commas have continued to be widely used in programming for lists (and rare other uses, such as the that separates expressions in C), they are rarely used otherwise, and the period as the end of the program has fallen out of use. The last major use of the comma, semicolon, and period hierarchy is in Erlang (1986), where commas separate expressions; semicolons separate clauses, both for control flow and for function clauses; and periods terminate statements, such as function definitions or module attributes, not the entire program. Drawbacks of having multiple different separators or terminators (compared to a single terminator and single grouping, as in semicolon-and-braces) include mental overhead in selecting punctuation, and overhead in rearranging code, as this requires not only moving lines around, but also updating the punctuation. What Sucks About Erlang, Damien Katz, March 9, 2008

In some cases the distinction between a separator and a terminator is strong, such as early versions of Pascal, where a final semicolon yields a . In other cases a final semicolon is treated either as optional syntax, or as being followed by a null statement, which is either ignored or treated as a NOP (no operation or null command); compare in lists. In some cases a blank statement is allowed, allowing a sequence of semicolons or the use of a semicolon by itself as the body of a control flow structure. For example, a blank statement (a semicolon by itself) stands for a NOP in C/C++, which is useful in loops.

APL uses semicolons to separate declarations of local variables, and to separate axes when indexing multi-dimensional arrays, for example matrix[2;3].

Other languages (for instance, some assembly languages and LISP dialects, CONFIG.SYS and ) use semicolons to mark the beginning of comments.

Example C code: int main() {

 int x, y;
 x = 1; y = 2;
 printf("X + Y = %d", x + y);
 return 0;

Conventionally, in many languages, each statement is written on a separate line, but this is not typically a requirement of the language. In the above example, two statements are placed on the same line; this is legal, because the semicolon separates the two statements. Thus programming languages like Java, the C family, Javascript etc. use semicolons to obtain a proper structure in the respective languages.

The semicolon is often used to separate elements of a string of text. For example, multiple e-mail addresses in the "To" field in some e-mail clients have to be by a semicolon.

In , the semicolon is used as a list separator, especially in cases where the decimal separator is a comma, such as 0,32; 3,14; 4,50, instead of 0.32, 3.14, 4.50.

In and , the semicolon can be used as a row separator when defining a vector or matrix (whereas a comma separates the columns within a row of a vector or matrix) or to execute a command silently, without displaying the resulting output value in the console.

In , a semicolon is used to terminate a character entity reference, either named or numeric.

In some delimiter-separated values file formats, the semicolon is used as the separator character, as an alternative to comma-separated values.

In the argument list of a mathematical function f(x_1, x_2, \dots; a_1, a_2, \dots), a semicolon may be used to separate variables from fixed parameters.

In differential geometry, a semicolon preceding an is used to indicate the covariant derivative of a function with respect to the associated with that index.

Other uses
The semicolon is commonly used as parts of , in order to indicate and/or crying.

Project Semicolon is the name of a faith-based anti- initiative (since the semicolon continues a sentence rather than ending it) which has led to the punctuation mark becoming a highly symbolic and popular , which is most commonly done on the .

The is sometimes used instead of a in numbers.

There is much Scratch culture around the semicolon.


External links

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