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Punctuation

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semicolon ( ; )
slash/stroke ( / )
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A semicolon ( ; ) is a conventional punctuation mark with several uses, mainly for pauses in sentences and breaks in lists. The Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder established the practice of using the semicolon mark to separate words of opposed meaning, and to indicate interdependent statements.[1] The earliest, general use of the semicolon in English was in 1591; Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use them systematically. The modern uses of the semicolon are discussed below, and relate either to the listing of items, or to the linking of related clauses.

Contents

English usage

Semicolons are followed by a lower case letter, unless that letter begins a proper noun. They have no spaces before them, but one or two spaces after. Applications of the semicolon in English include:

  • Between closely related independent clauses not conjoined with a co-ordinating conjunction:
    • "I went to the swimming pool; I was told it was closed for routine maintenance."
    • "A man chooses; a slave obeys."
  • Between independent clauses linked with a transitional phrase or a conjunctive adverb: "I like to eat cows; however, I don't like to be eaten by them."
  • Between items in a series or listing containing internal punctuation, especially parenthetic commas, where the semicolons function as serial commas:
    • "She saw three men: Donald, who came from New Zealand; John, the milkman's son; and George, a gaunt kind of man."
    • "Several fast food restaurants can be found in each of London, England; Paris, France; Dublin, Ireland; and Madrid, Spain."
    • "Examples of familiar sequences are: one, two, and three; a, b, and c; and first, second, and third."

Other languages

Arabic

Semicolon in Arabic is called Fāṣila Manqūṭa (Arabic: فاصلة منقوطة‎) which means literally "a dotted comma", and is written inverted ( ؛ ). In Arabic, the semicolon has several uses:

  • It could be used between two phrases, in which the first phrase causes the second.
Example: "He played much; so, his clothes became dirty". (Arabic: لقد لعب كثيرًا؛ فاتسخت ملابسه.‏‎)
  • It could be used in two phrases, where the second is a reason in the first.
Example: "Your sister did not get high marks; because she didn't study sincerely". (Arabic: لم تحقق أختك درجات عالية؛ لأنها لم تتأنَ في دراستها.‏‎)

Greek and Church Slavonic

In Greek and Church Slavonic, a semicolon indicates a question, similar to a Latin question mark. To indicate a long pause or separate sections, each with commas (the semicolon's purpose in English), Greek uses an interpunct ( · ) and an ano teleia ( · ).

Example:

Με συγχωρείτε· πού είναι οι τουαλέτες; (Excuse me; where are the toilets?)

Computing usage

In computer programming, the semicolon is often used to separate multiple statements (for example, in Pascal and SQL). In other languages, semicolons are required after every statement (such as in Perl, Java, and the C family). Other languages (for instance, some assembly languages and LISP dialects) use semicolons to mark the beginning of comments.

Example C++ code:

int main(void) 
{
 int x, y;
 x = 1; 
 y = 2;
 std::cout << x << std::endl;
 return 0;
}

In computer systems, the semicolon is represented by Unicode and ASCII character 59 or 0x3B. The EBCDIC semicolon character is 94 or 0x5E.


The semicolon is often used to separate elements of a string of text. For example, multiple e-mail addresses in the "To" field in some e-mail clients have to be delimited by a semicolon.

The semicolon is commonly used as parts of emoticons, in order to indicate winking.

In Microsoft Excel, the semicolon is used as a list separator, especially in cases where the decimal separator is a comma, such as 0,32; 3,14; 4,50, instead of 0.32, 3.14, 4.50.

In MATLAB, the semicolon can be used as a row separator when defining a vector or matrix (whereas a comma separates the columns within a row of a vector or matrix) or to execute a command silently, without displaying the resulting output value in the console.

In HTML, a semicolon is used to terminate a numeric character reference.

Mathematics

In the argument list of a mathematical function f(x_1, x_2, \dots; a_1, a_2, \dots), a semicolon may be used to separate variables and parameters.

In differential geometry, a semicolon preceding an index is used to indicate the covariant derivative of a function with respect to the coordinate associated with that index.

References

  1. ^ Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003. p. 77. ISBN 1-592-40087-6.
  • Hacker, Diana (2002). The Bedford Handbook (6th ed. ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-41281-9. 

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Alternative spellings

Noun

Singular
semicolon

Plural
semicolons

semicolon (plural semicolons)

  1. The punctuation mark ';' .
    A semicolon is followed by an initial lower-case letter (unless for proper nouns).

See also

Punctuation

( ( ) ) ( [ ] ) ( { } ) ( )

Translations

See also


Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 28, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Semicolon, which are similar to those in the above article.








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