You Have Three Choices in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Whenever two or more independent clauses (i.e., phrases that could stand alone as sentences) are joined together, there are always three punctuation options.

1. Split them into separate sentences.

2. Use a semicolon to separate the clauses.

3. Use a comma before the conjunction that connects the clauses.

Consider, for example, the following sentence. Notice how it can be punctuated—properly—three ways. There is no right or best choice among the three; they're all acceptable alternatives. As you read them, ask yourself which one you like best and why.

1. Mindy wanted to apply for the newly created position. Tom did not.

2. Mindy wanted to apply for the newly created position; Tom did not.

3. Mindy wanted to apply for the newly created position, but Tom did not.

The first option, separating the two clauses, results in a short second sentence that serves to emphasize Tom's stance. The second option employs a semicolon to show that the sentences are intimately connected. The third option adds a conjunction to show the relationship between the two sentences.

Choose the one that seems best to you and that most reflects your meaning.

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