Semi-Colons: the Academic Prose Conventions

1)  Use semi-colons to separate closely related sentences (independent clauses) that are not joined with a conjunction.

          An example from Carolyn Hax's "Tell Me about It" advice column in which she was asked whether a man should worry about not wanting to date some months after a particularly dysfunctional relationship ended.

         Whatís going on here is that you had a traumatic experience and you havenít yet recovered enough to want to take that same risk again. It doesnít need to be any more complicated than that.  Had you instead been on an amusement park ride that nearly killed your girlfriend, I doubt youíd be mystified by not wanting to line up for it again.

         Creating something volatile with one person doesnít mean every, or even any, other relationship you have will be just as unstable, of course. But forcing yourself back into circulation before youíve made sense of your emotional state just invites confusion, miscommunication and self-sabotage; itís hard to get what you need when you arenít clear what your needs really are.

        Now is the time to reflect ó or continue reflecting ó on this difficult relationship to see whether there were signs you missed or contributions you made. Itís also time to work on finding contentment as you are, since that will be your point of reference when you do feel ready to date again.

"Carolyn Hax: Trying to get off the sidelines after a catastrophic relationship," The Washington Post, October 16, 2014.

2)  Use semi-colons to separate items in a list that was begun by a colon if the items in the list are, themselves, punctuated with commas.

The menu features several dishes too complex for anyone ordinarily to make at home: quail eggs, lightly minced with sea-urchin roe; grapefruit, sauteed with Rice Crispies and jam, twice baked; and a seventeen-layer cake, frosted with caviar and filled with squid. 

vs.

The menu features several dishes too complex for anyone ordinarily to make at home: quail eggs, lightly minced with sea-urchin roe, grapefruit, sauteed with Rice Crispies and jam, twice baked, and a seventeen-layer cake, frosted with caviar and filled with squid.