I've had a look around for an answer to this question and just have not been able to find anything. Am I using a semicolon correctly in the following passage?

However, negative results for the three hypotheses would improve the probability of the aventador theory; Specifically, the quadruple exhaust pipes on the LP-700 may generate fluorescent flames.

Or should it be:

However, negative results for the three hypotheses would improve the probability of the aventador theory. Specifically, the quadruple exhaust pipes on the LP-700 may generate fluorescent flames.

closed as off topic by Kris, MetaEd, Hellion, Andrew Leach, Kristina Lopez May 21 '13 at 17:20

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    Other than the capitalization error in the first example, is there some reason you thought it might be incorrect? The grammar and punctuation are good, although it might be overly complex. I prefer the flow of the second example. – Bradd Szonye May 20 '13 at 5:38
  • @Bradd I quite agree. And the better flow might prevent any fluorescent flames. Though I'd prefer increase the probability that the aventador theory is correct to improve ... – Edwin Ashworth May 20 '13 at 7:21

There is a nice article dealing with the choice between two separate sentences / semicolon / colon at http://fos.iloveindia.com/colon-vs-semicolon.html (but watch out for the bulleting error in Example #1: 'Lisa is upset: Gus is having a nervous breakdown.' should be an unbulleted, bolded, third variant).

This is not always just a matter of style:

'The colon and the semicolon are not for merely decorating a sentence but their literary importance is quite evident in the fact that they can completely change or modify the meaning of sentences.'

However, in the OP, it is just style (the subject matter is quite complex - give the poor reader a break!) that suggests (not demands) we opt for two separate sentences.


Use of the semicolon is hard to understand because, unlike commas and periods, the semicolon is not necessary to make meaning; we could easily do without it with no serious consequence to the language. Semicolons are used to increase readability, so we need to look at their use in the wider context of an entire piece of writing.

Following grammar books, the semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses, which produces a comma-splice if done with a comma and, if done with a period, produces two sentences. Alternatively, one could always use a comma + "and" for the same effect.

Normally, two independent clauses joined with a semicolon should be close in meaning. Here is an example from Dr Martin Luther King:

Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong. -- M. L. King, Letter from Birmingham Jail. (cited by Petit, 2003).

If you are approaching this from the point of view of what is correct and incorrect, you will become confused. It is usually a matter of style and many writers never use semicolons at all.

Here are a couple of good resources on the topic of semicolons, if you'd like to find out more:

Dawkins, John (1995). Teaching punctuation as a rhetorical tool. College Composition and Communication, 46(4). 533-548

Petit, A. (2003). The Stylish Semicolon: Teaching Punctuation as Rhetorical Choice. The English Journal, 92(3), 66-72.

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