Let’s Talk About The Semicolon



1. A punctuation mark (;) indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced than that indicated by a comma.
2. A symbol that makes people angry.

The semicolon has been the cause of heartbreak on grammar tests since the dawn of public education and red hot hatred among certain members of the writing community. Often seen as an under developed j [j vs ;] or an uppity comma [, vs ;], many really do hate the semicolon; except for me.

I kinda like it.

I don’t know if that means we can’t be friends or have a conversation ever again, but if me using a semicolon has changed your perception of me then you got other issues. I think the semicolon is useful. I’d even go so far as to say that it is very useful; it’s just a matter of whether or not you like it.

Beyond the introduction explaining what the semicolon is, a punctuation mark that allows joining two independent clauses, what I want to talk about is how bonkers the English language really is. Yes, I ended that sentence with a preposition! Come at me, brosif!

I love its madness, I really do, because there are so many rules that you can choose to follow or not. It’s like the language never had any formal constraints to it, and over time the ‘rules’ changed, but people just couldn’t let go of the old ways. Fact of the matter is, there are some basics you need to know in order to form sentences into coherent thoughts; but once you know the rules, you can break them.

No, Ivan, breaking rules, not bones… or me… Stop staring at me like that!

This is perhaps one of the few languages on Earth that has the ability to be hacked up and still be usable. It’s adaptability is bizarre, but I am getting off topic here; back to the semicolon, which Kurt Vonnegut hates.

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Man has a point; you really don’t need to use a semicolon in creative writing. This is more of a modern thing to do, as much of classical literature used semicolons, but I think much the ire that this small symbol has earned is due to how we were taught to use it.

Yes, I blame standardized testing and piss poor teachers.

For most of my life I too hated semicolons, but that was because I often was docked points on tests when I didn’t use it correctly or at all. It was this stupid, and entirely optional, device that I often forgot existed and thus would earn a C rather than a B on an English test. I think that this isn’t an isolated experience. I think a lot of us have had this issue and because of it the semicolon was placed in the ‘Like algebra, I will never use this in my daily life outside of school’ category in our brains.

Only when I actually was taught in college (Yes, college) on how to use it properly did I begin to like this deformed question mark [? vs ;].

Pick up a copy of Strunk and White: Elements of Style, get a base for your grammar skills, and then learn what rules you want to break. Just because Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most beloved American authors and quote-generators of our time, didn’t like it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t as well. I ask that you try to give the semicolon, unlike parachute pants (Does joke that register still?), another chance.

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Nick enjoys making things and drinking coffee, specifically the latter, for without it the former wouldn’t get done. He also wrote a book titled “Where Monsters Lie & Other Tales”