Recently I read a WordPress.com Freshly Pressed post called Interview with a semicolon on the blog Tom Gething: re reading. Basically what this post is is a short ‘fake’ interview with a semicolon. Yeah, they’re interviewing a punctuation mark.
Gething: That’s my point. Many modern writers, in particular Cormac McCarthy in his interview with Oprah, have called for your extinction. What did you do to create such a virulent reaction?
Semicolon: Ask Mr. McCarthy; to my knowledge I did nothing.
Gething: But you must have done something. He’s not calling for the elimination of the period or the question mark, or even the colon in certain instances.
Semicolon: No, he seems to have targeted me in particular…and the exclamation mark; I don’t know what we did to deserve such enmity. My purpose seems quite clear—to connect two or more independent clauses more closely than ones separated by a period. I believe there’s still a place for that in the world.
I agree- semicolons do have a place in the world. It’s a relevant post. The main reason anyone would use a semicolon these days would be to make emotes (like ;)). Here’s what a semicolon does: 1) connect two related sentences or 2) to help avoid confusion when you’re dealing with a big list.
Here’s an example of a semicolon in use:
There’s so much homework today. I’m working myself to death.
But with a semicolon in the sentence, it looks like this:
There’s so much homework today; I’m working myself to death.
The sentence does sound nice. You don’t have to keep pausing for breath if there’s a semicolon. It’s kinda like a semi-pause. (Of course, you don’t want to overuse a semicolon; if you do that, readers will be out of breath by the time they finish the sentence which will most likely look like a paragraph).
Anyway, after reading this interview with a semicolon thing, it made me realize how often I actually use these punctuation marks. And the funny thing is that I haven’t been using them very often before very recently; in fact, I don’t think that last year I used these at all.
I came up with a few reasons.
- People like using the full stop. It’s easier, much more widely soon and more fool-proof.
- People don’t know how to use it?
- People don’t realize it’s there?
- People just keep hitting shift and turning it into an “:”?
- IT’S JUST SCARY? Yeah, punctuation marks are scary (since they aren’t seen very often). If there was a Punctuation Halloween everyone would dressing up as a semicolon.
I don’t even know why I’m writing this post, but I guess I just wanted to stand up and defend the semicolon? What do you think about the semicolon? Comment your ideas.