I think I understand the use of semicolons reasonably well, but could someone tell me if I am using it correctly here please:

My research focuses on pulsars; exotic remnants of dead stars.

Thank you.

  • This isn't exactly my area of expertise; but I suggest using a colon. Reason: the second clause explains the first.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 9, 2015 at 13:00
  • This is my area of expertise, and I can assure you that the semi-colon is the correct form of punctuation in this instance. A colon would be grammatically incorrect.
    – user128193
    Jul 9, 2015 at 13:04
  • 1
    I am reminded of an old episode of Murder She Wrote where Jessica was able to determine that a ransom note was a phony (and who likely wrote it) because a semicolon was used correctly, "and hardly anyone knows how to use a semicolon correctly".
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 9, 2015 at 13:16
  • I wouldn't use a colon or semi-colon. "My research focuses on pulsars, which are exotic remnants of dead stars." Or more scientific: "My research focuses on exotic remnants of dead stars, which are called 'quasars'." Those sentences express the idea more clearly and sound less chatty.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 9, 2015 at 16:19
  • @user128193 I was taught--in cases where a semicolon is not used to delineate a list--both sides of the semicolon must be a complete sentence, whereas a colon only requires one side to be a complete sentence.
    – VampDuc
    Jul 9, 2015 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


You can use either a semicolon or a colon to join two main clauses, but you can only use a colon to join a main clause with a noun or phrase.

Here's an example: "Squiggly missed only one friend: Aardvark." You couldn't use a semicolon in that sentence because the two parts are unequal.

I suggest: "My research focuses on pulsars: exotic remnants of dead stars."

Or create 2 independent clauses:
"My research focuses on pulsars; They are exotic remnants of dead stars."

  • Good job. I agree. +1.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 9, 2015 at 13:01

This is the correct usage - you are linking two independent but closely related ideas with the semicolon, such as:

Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil

  • 2
    You really think the second clause is independent? I think it depends rather heavily on pulsars.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jul 9, 2015 at 12:58

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