General Writing and Grammar Help/Use of semicolon


Hello Richard,
I am the general chair of a convention. One of my committee chairs, in charge of the banquet program, has used semicolons in the program in a way that doesn't strike me as grammatically correct usage.  Examples:

Metropolis Mayor;  John Doe
Convention Co-Chair;  Sally Smith
Local Chapter President; Dwight Davis

Is this correct semicolon usage?  If not, how should the name of each speaker be appropriately separated from their title in the banquet program?


Thanks, James, for your question. It's my pleasure to answer you, and I hope you'll ask more.

I agree that this use of a semicolon is not standard. A comma might be acceptable, depending on the context. The rule is that a semicolon should be used instead of a comma when separating two independent clauses, or when a greater degree of separation is needed (as, commonly, when the existence in the same sentence of other commas together with the one in question would impair the sentence's clarity). Neither condition is met here.

If you care to send me in a follow-up a context including the text preceding the listing, I'll attempt to give you a more definite answer regarding the use of the comma here.  

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Richard Johnson


I specialize in grammar. I can however answer any question except homework questions--usually the same day--concerning English grammar, usage, or (non-fiction) writing style, on the basis of the American practice. All answers are explained, and I encourage follow-up.


I'm a retired editor and a lifelong student of this subject. My library includes a great many works to which I've referred through the years. I currently rely largely on the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style supplemented, where appropriate, by Long, The New College Grammar.

For over 30 years I edited the newsletter of my own organization, which had different names but was last known as

BA, Brooklyn College. Advanced studies in economics and political science.

Awards and Honors
For many years a member of Mensa.

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