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I am studying for the ACT. In my study book it says: use a colon after a complete sentence before a clarification. It also says: use a semicolon to join two complete, related sentences in the place of a conjunction.

Consider the following two sentences:

A. "Text me your information; I want to stay in touch with you."

B. "Soy is used in Japanese cooking: it adds a unique taste to the dishes."

Evidently, sentence A uses a semicolon, and sentence B uses a colon, but in both A and B the second sentence (the one after the colon/semi-colon) clarifies the first sentence (the one before the colon/semi-colon). In A, the second sentence clarifies why I want you to text me your information. In B, the second sentence clarifies why soy is used in Japanese cooking.

I am not sure whether the ACT will test colon vs. semicolon usage with subtle examples like this one.

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I'll answer in general analytical terms, rather than with reference to a prescriptive set of rules.

Your second example, as written, uses the colon to indicate that the intention is probably to provide an explanation of the first independent clause (so the colon could be replaced by 'because'). Choosing a semicolon instead (equally acceptable) would rather indicate a separate but related observation. Two sentences could also be used.

The first example surely demands that the second clause is an explanation of the first (if by 'information' is meant 'personal details'. And if this is not the case, the two clauses are disparate enough to need separate sentences.) A colon would be the natural choice, though a semicolon would be quite acceptable.

We don't offer advice on "how to obey authority X's 'rules' ".

  • In other words, a colon or semicolon work in both sentences. – Joshua Benabou Jun 9 '15 at 2:35
  • Both are acceptable. BUT perhaps not to the ACT examiners. We often find that examiners require a preferred style rather than the real language. But, as I say, ELU is largely about real English rather than argots; we don't offer examination-board-specific advice. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 9 '15 at 9:34

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