When should you use a semicolon?

This page reflects guidance from the sixth edition of the Publication Manual.

For the most current guidelines, see the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) and our Style and Grammar Guidelines page for the seventh edition.

Use a semicolon

to separate two independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction

  • Example:
    The participants in the first study were paid; those in the second were unpaid.

to separate elements in a series that already contain commas

Examples:

  • The color order was red, yellow, blue; blue, yellow, red; or yellow, red, blue.
  • (Davis & Hueter, 2006; Pettigrew, 2003)
  • age, M = 34.5 years, 95% CI [29.4, 39.6]; years of education, M = 10.4 [8.7, 12.1]; and weekly income, M = 612 [522, 702].

(adapted from the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, © 2010)

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