Understanding Semicolons

A semicolon is like a period, but it’s not followed by a capital letter. The good news is that semicolons can add professionalism to your police and corrections reports. The better news is that semicolons are even more useful when you’re promoted and start tackling a wider variety of writing tasks.

The best news is that semicolons are easy to use because they’re so similar to periods.

Here’s how to do it:

1.  Find two sentences that go together in some way.

2.  Change the period between them to a semicolon.

3.  Change the capital letter to lower case (unless it’s a name or other word that needs to be capitalized).

You’re done!

Please note that what you don’t do is pick out a long sentence, find the midpoint, and stick a semicolon there.

Here are some examples.

Clare was worried about John. He had stopped spending time with his old friends. CORRECT

Clare was worried about John; he had stopped spending time with his old friends. CORRECT – SEMICOLON

Mark tried hiding the car keys. Judy found them anyway and took his car. CORRECT

Mark tried hiding the car keys; Judy found them anyway and took his car. CORRECT – SEMICOLON

Don’t spend too much time worrying about the requirement about two sentences that relate to each other. In most writing tasks, one sentence logically follows another. Most officers find it easy to select two sentences that can be joined with a semicolon.

Here are some guidelines for using semicolons:

  • Use a semicolon occasionally to add a professional touch to your writing.
  • Don’t overdo it. One semicolon per paragraph or report is a good rule of thumb.
  • Remember this principle: Periods are followed by capital letters. Semicolons are followed by lower-case letters.

That’s it. Happy semicolons! (They really do impress people. Start using them!)



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