Period, Comma, or Semi-colon

Grammar Tutorial

Period, Comma, or Semi-colon


When is it appropriate to use a comma, period, or semi-colon? This is a question that most students I have encountered struggle with. They are often times used incorrectly, and this tutorial is designed to help identify when and where a semi-colon (also spelled semicolon), period, and comma should be placed for the most efficient use of language and space.

Sample Problem

Use the following information to answer the question below.

Choose the answer that conveys the message best.

We went to the zoo today the lion was my favorite animal.

Leave as is

We went to the zoo today, the lion was my favorite animal.

We went to the zoo today; the lion was my favorite animal.

We went to the zoo today. The lion was my favorite animal.


“We went to the zoo today; the lion was my favorite animal” is the correct answer to this problem. Below we will discuss why this is true.

The semi-colon may be one of the most misunderstood punctuation marks in existence; it seems to belong in the same places that a period would work. This may be true, but they are often used when a period disrupts the flow of the passage.
Semi-colons are used when you have two independent clauses that are not connected by a conjunction (but, however, although, etc…) but are still related by content.
Ex. I love reading; fantasy is my favorite genre.

The period is a wonderful tool that enables you to end a thought concisely. Once a period is placed, you no longer try to connect the clause with the preceding thought. It puts an end to one line of thinking and allows you to make your next statement. A period should only be placed at the end of an clause; you do not use them to separate a list of ideas.
Ex. I love to read fantasy books.

The comma is somewhat more complex. It is able to join a dependent clause with an independent clause and separate items in a list. If there are two clauses connected by a conjunction, a comma can also be used correctly.
Ex 1. I love to read, but fantasy is my favorite genre.
Ex 2. I love to read fantasy, horror, and science fiction.

Be careful not to overuse semi-colons and commas as they can lead to run-on sentences. Periods still have their place, so be sure that they are being used!

About The Author

K-12 Math And English Tutor
I have worked as a tutor through California's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program tutoring K-12 students in both mathematics and English Language Arts in the past. I have prior experience with English as a second language students as well as special needs students. I have obtained a B.S. in Sociolog...
13 Subjects
KnowRo Tutor
1 Tutorial
Riverside, CA
Get Tutoring Info

Suggested Tutors for Grammar Help

Bridget S

Arlington, VA

Humanities, Language, And Organizational Support

Sophia G

Washington, DC

General Tutor

Khoi T

Mclean, VA

Math, Writing, And SAT Tutor

Emily V

Alexandria, VA

Versatile And Flexible Tutor