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Semicolons

1.  Use a semicolon, not a comma, to join two independent clauses separated by a conjunctive adverb (such as however). The conjunctive adverbs include accordingly, consequently, hence, however, moreover, otherwise, therefore, and thus.
Incorrect: I requested an extension of time to file my brief with the Seventh Circuit, however, the judge denied my motion, citing local rules.

Correct: I requested an extension of time to file my brief with the Seventh Circuit; however, the judge denied my motion, citing local rules.

Incorrect: The defendant failed to check her rear-view mirror before changing lanes, therefore she breached a duty owed to the plaintiff.

Correct: The defendant failed to check her rear-view mirror before changing lanes; therefore, she breached a duty owed to the plaintiff.

2.  Use a comma, not a semicolon, to join two independent clauses separated by a conjunction (such as "and" and "but").

Incorrect: The appellate court disagreed with the decision of the trial court; but the court refused to remand the case for a new trial, relying on the harmless-error rule.


Also Incorrect:

The appellate court disagreed with the decision of the trial court but the court refused to remand the case for a new trial, relying on the harmless-error rule.
Correct: The appellate court disagreed with the decision of the trial court, but the court refused to remand the case for a new trial, relying on the harmless-error rule.

3.  Use commas to separate items in a list unless the list is so complicated that semicolons are required for clarity.

Incorrect: The first-year curriculum included courses in Torts; Contracts; Criminal Law; Legal Writing; and Justice.

Correct: The first-year curriculum included courses in Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Legal Writing, and Justice.


Also Correct:

The first-year curriculum included courses in Torts, which covers personal-injury litigation; Contracts, which covers the creation and enforcement of private agreements; Criminal Law, which provides an introduction to the theory of criminal law and specified crimes; Legal Writing, which provides training in the basic skills needed to succeed in the practice of law; and Justice, which presents an introduction to the schools of legal thought and the theoretical foundations of our legal system.

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