I'm really struggling with semicolons and I know I need an independent clause after the semicolon but I feel like that makes the whole sentence a little jerky.

Would this be correct?

  • My prior knowledge of this sector was limited; therefore, I was surprised to learn about the different strategies business used to outcompete different firms.

I know I need to get rid of therefore to make it independent but I feel like the vibe of the sentence would change?

  • 1
    The semicolon works there, but so would a period.
    – Robusto
    Nov 5, 2020 at 21:16
  • @Robusto Isn't it true that most semicolons can be replaced with periods? It's just a matter of how closely related you think the two clauses are.
    – Barmar
    Nov 5, 2020 at 22:08
  • @Barmar: Some semicolons can't be replaced by a period, such as those that demarcate complex list entries. But in the main you are right. These days I only use a semicolon when the two independent clauses express an equivalence or an outcome I wish to bind together especially firmly. And half the time I end up changing it to a period anyway.
    – Robusto
    Nov 5, 2020 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


Therefore can be used in an independent clause, so your sentence structure is fine as it is. As you said, a semicolon can join essentially any two independent clauses into one sentence.



Use a full stop / period.

Why run two sentences together? Start the second sentence with:

I was surprised, therefore, to learn…

The result is more readable because it allows each of the two ideas (prior ignorance, variety of strategies) to have its effect. It also abides by one of the principles of good writing I recommend to my students: “tell them a story”.

Although in the example of the original poster the two clauses are, in my judgement, sufficiently independent to be better standing alone, there are situations in which two sentences would most certainly not be advised. For example, the English translation of Descartes Latin:

I think, therefore I am.

But here a comma is used because of the closer relationship of the two ideas. A semi-colon would indicate a longer pause (separation) between the two parts of the sentence.

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