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Semicolons and Colons

Use a semicolon to join two closely related independent clauses.

Leopards usually hunt at night; the dark helps them to ambush their prey.

Note that both sides of the semicolon must be complete thoughts. The following is incorrect.

Leopards usually hunt at night; ambushing their prey in the dark.

 

If the second clause is not closely related, use a period rather than a semicolon.

Leopards usually hunt at night. Their prey includes antelope.

 

Also use a semicolon if a series of items has internal commas.

The lake contained many fish including minnows, sunfish, and bass; a few mammals including otters, muskrats, and beavers; but no amphibians.

 

Use a colon to join two equivalent elements.

Lions hunt many prey species: impala, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle, etc.

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