Argument - 1: (denying the use with conjunctions)

  • If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.

  • If a conjunction is inserted, the proper mark is a comma (Rule 4)

as taken from Codified rules, Strunk & White; found via this answer


Use a semicolon to separate 2 independent clauses in a sentence, closely related, with no coordinating conjunction. Also, use a semicolon to separate items in a series where the series themselves contain commas. [source]

Argument-2: (supporting the use with conjunctions)

The semicolon between clauses suggests a connection between the sentences that is stronger than if there were a period between the two.


He is the most disagreeable person I've ever had the misfortune to meet, and I dislike his style; but I must admit that he gets the job done. [source]

The most confusing part is probably the below. It supports the use of semicolon with conjunctions with a stronger example.

Some sentences are ambiguous; however, we try hard to avoid this.

Some sentences are ambiguous however we try hard to avoid this.

The first sentence here states two separate thoughts, and points out that one is opposed to the other: "Some sentences are ambiguous" and "we try hard to avoid this".

The second sentence states that no matter how hard we try to avoid it, some sentences are ambiguous.

These two grammatically correct sentences differ only in whether we followed the semicolon-and-comma rule you mention, showing its value clearly. [source]

In summary, my question is to ask:

Which usage of semicolon is more conventional and suggested for US/UK readers?

If it helps in anyway, I'm a budding researcher in engineering. Any specific usage suites my case of technical writings if used consistently?

Just please help me with a standard answer in a way that I can cite and defend.

  • 1
    As a technical writer, I would actually recommend not using semicolons too often. I use The Global English Style Guide. The recommendation on page 192 (section 8.10.1) is not to use semicolons to separate clauses but instead create separate sentences. The simpler the sentence, the easier it is to translate and understand by non-native English readers.
    – Val
    Jun 30, 2016 at 15:05
  • 1
    Punctuation is a matter of style, and will be governed by your manual of style, which will be assigned to you by the organization for which you do budding research. That is, there is no "standard answer", unless the various style manuals in use all happen to agree on an issue. And no one to whom you submit research papers will think this website is dispositive of anything.
    – deadrat
    Jun 30, 2016 at 16:03
  • 4
    Your sentence, "Some sentences are ambiguous however we try hard to avoid this" would normally be worded (if your explanation as to what the sentence means is correct), "Some sentences are ambiguous however hard we try to avoid this". Jun 30, 2016 at 16:33
  • @deadrat I agree; but only partially. As I see in practice of research writing (journals,reports etc), even though there might exist a specific style manual written somewhere, it is either buried down in text so deep that no one cares about or, it's only an optional guidance that no one uses until anyone objects at all. So I think sticking myself to a consistent and generally acceptable rules is the way to go. Also it's not practical to change my style often for each target organization. Jun 30, 2016 at 18:39
  • @rhetorician I agree. However, it's not my sentence. See the source I linked immediately after that section. Jun 30, 2016 at 18:47


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