Officers who are moving into administrative positions in criminal justice often ask how they can make their writing more sophisticated. Semicolons are one answer. They are wonderful punctuation marks that writers should use more often, for two reasons:

1.  They’re impressive.

2.  They’re easy.

Maybe you’re doubting me about #2. Semicolons look fancy, so they have to be difficult, right?

Wrong. Semicolons are just like periods. That’s it!

Take a look at these examples:

Patterson walked back to his car. The hood was up, and his battery was gone. CORRECT

Patterson walked back to his car; the hood was up, and his battery was gone. CORRECT

We continued the count. Bradley’s cell was empty. CORRECT

We continued the count; Bradley’s cell was empty. CORRECT

By now you’ve probably figured out how to use semicolons. Just change the period to a semicolon, and lower-case the next letter (unless it’s a word that’s supposed to be capitalized, like Bradley or September).

Semicolons allow you to sound sophisticated while you’re writing short sentences. Many officers already use them; they add a professional touch to reports. (Did you notice the semicolon?)

Try them yourself! And here’s a good rule of thumb: One semicolon per paragraph. If you’re writing something very short, stick to one semicolon per page.




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 Criminal Justice Report Writing by Jean Reynolds is available from for the low price of $17.95. For a free preview, click on the link or the picture below.

Updated, with a new chapter on Writing Efficiently

“It will definitely help you with your writing skills.” – Joseph E. Badger, California Association of Accident Reconstructionists Newsletter

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