•           Home
  • Getting Started
  • Working at Home
  • Productivity
  • Grammar & Spelling
  • Research
  • Text Expanders
  • Earnings Calls
  • Product Reviews
  • Podcasts
  • About

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Demystifying the Semicolon, Part 2

We’ve already talked about using a semicolon to join two sentences in the absence of a conjunction or when conjunctive adverbs are used; however, there’s another use for them as well.

Semicolons can be used in lieu of commas when a list is given in which one or more of the “items” in the list includes a comma. This is done to eliminate excessive comma usage and make the sentences easier to read.

For financial earnings calls, these are commonly used when lists of executives participating in the call are introduced with their titles:

On today’s call, we have Bill Smith, CEO; John Williams, CFO; Anna Jones, CIO; and Steve Brown, VP of Sales.

However, financial earnings calls are not the only place that you may encounter something like this. When a list is given which includes groups of items separated by commas, the groups can be separated from each other with semicolons as well, such as this example from the English Department at Northern Illinois University:

Austin went shopping and bought apples, oranges, and peaches; a pair of shoes and new laces; and a cd, walkman, batteries, and new headphones.

They can also be used for lists of cities/states or dates, which include commas in each item:

On my trip, I visited Salt Lake City, Utah; Phoenix, Arizona; and Birmingham, Alabama.

As you can see, when used properly, semicolons are a very useful tool to increase the readability of a transcript.