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Semicolons and Colons

Directions: Move the arrow over or touch each highlighted word or segment and look for a definition or explanation in the box.
Note: Quotes with Jesus speaking are referenced in red.


1. Semicolons are used to join closely related independent clauses (The independent clauses are too closely related to justify using a period to separate them).

Praise the Lord all you nations; extol Him, all you peoples.
Psalms 117:1.

I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever. Revelation 1:18.
In the example above, ask yourself whether you could put a period between the words One and I.
If your answer is yes, a semicolon may work well. Semicolons indicate a shorter pause and draw attention to the connection between the clauses.

Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death. Psalms 68:20.

The semicolon can often be used in places where there would normally be a period. To use a semicolon in lieu of a period, make sure that the ideas on either side of the semicolon are closely related.

Note: Another way to join independent clauses is with a coordinate conjunction. The coordinate conjunctions are: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (FANBOYS). If you join independent clauses with a coordinate conjunction, do not use a semicolon; instead, use a comma.

I am the Living One, for I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever. Revelation 1:18.

2. You may use an adverb between separate independent clauses. If you do, use a semicolon to separate the independent clauses. The adverb adds meaning and expresses a relationship between the clauses.

Here's a list of "conjunctive" adverbs: accordingly, besides, consequently, furthermore, hence, however, instead, moreover, nevertheless, otherwise, therefore.

If you use a conjunctive adverb between two independent clauses, put a semicolon before it and a comma after it.

When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David's army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.
2 Samuel 11:17.
You may also use a transitional expression between two independent clauses.
Transitional expressions include: in fact, for example, that is, for instance, in addition, in other words.

If you use a transitional expression between two independent clauses, put a semicolon before it and a comma after it.

Jesus said, "You have now seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you." John 9:37 (Jesus identifies Himself as Lord and Savior).
3. Place a semicolon before a coordinate conjunction that joins independent clauses if the sentence already has two or more commas.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6
4. When the items in a series themselves contain commas, separate the items with semicolons. Semicolons help to keep a complicated list of items organized; use them to make clear distinctions.

We visited Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Ithaca, New York; and Richmond, Virginia.

The sentence without semicolons and only commas is confusing:
We visited Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Ithaca, New York, and Richmond, Virginia.


The colon is a mark of expectation; its primary function is to signal to the reader to "watch for what's coming."
Use a colon to introduce a word, phrase, or clause that adds particular emphasis to the main body of a sentence.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
John 15:12

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those that mistreat you. Luke 6:27.

A colon is used between two independent clauses if the second clause is an explanation
Use a semicolon, instead, between two independent clauses when the second clause is related but not an explanation.

But one thing I do : Forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Jesus Christ
. Phillipians 3:13-14

The Bible was not written by men on their own: It was written by men with inspiration from God.

Use a colon after an independent clause when it introduces a list.

Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Revelation 1:10
Use a colon after a complete sentence that introduces a quotation.
If a complete sentence doesn't introduce the quotation, use a comma instead.

Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid." Revelation 1:17 .
After Jesus said "Don't be afraid " he continued saying, " I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever
Revelation 1:17-18

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