Do You Capitalize after a Semicolon? And Other Semicolon Questions Answered

Do you capitalized after a semicolon?

The semicolon, also known as the top half of a winky face, is an oft-misunderstood punctuation mark. Somewhere between a comma and a period, it is the cause of much vexation among seasoned and amateur writers alike — not to mention the bane of many English teachers and their dreaded red pens.

I’ve written this article to help clear up the confusion. Let’s get started. 

Key Semicolon Takeaways

Semicolons have two primary uses:

  1. Semicolons separate independent clauses that are closely related.
  1. Semicolons are used for lists when the list items already include commas or are very long.

Furthermore, do not capitalize after a semicolon — unless the word should be capitalized anyway.

Using a Semicolon between Independent Clauses

Sometimes, two ideas are very closely linked. Sometimes those ideas are so linked that a writer may want to connect them without using a period. Enter the semicolon. 

The semicolon can join two independent clauses with related ideas. And what are independent clauses? Phrases with a subject and verb that can stand on their own — essentially, sentences. 

So, semicolons conjoin related sentences. Let’s look at some examples:

Rodrigo decided to ride bikes; his brother played with toys.

Notice in the above example that the word following the semicolon — “his” — is not capitalized.

Joleen liked the movie; Valerie thought it was trash.

Valerie is capitalized only because it is a proper noun in this example. 

Don’t Use And — or Other Conjunctions — with Semicolons

A semicolon takes the place of conjunctions like and, but, and or. Don’t use semicolons and conjunctions at the same time — use one or the other. For example:

With a conjunction: I walked to the store, and I took the bus home.

With a semicolon: I walked to the store; I took the bus home.

Using Transition Words with Semicolons

Although we don’t use conjunctions with semicolons, we can use transition words and phrases like moreover, however, meanwhile, instead, in addition, for example, accordingly, etc. These transition words come after the semicolon and are followed by a comma.

Some examples:

Juliet is great at her job; moreover, she is a team player.

Marianne didn’t go for herself; instead, she went for her kids.

Jack painted his house for twelve hours; nevertheless, the job remained unfinished.

Using Semicolons with Lists

Use semicolons to separate items in a list or series if the items are especially long or contain internal punctuation. 

For example:

On her east coast trip, Maria visited Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Richmond, Virginia.

For his summer reading, Albert decided to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a horror novella; The Lord of the Rings, a fantasy series; and Brave New World, a dystopian novel.

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