Friday, November 5, 2010

Using half of your colon, or, the life and death of the semicolon.

A few days ago, I decided to learn what I could about the ellipsis, my favorite punctuation mark.  At the Kill Zone last week, James Scott Bell wrote a moving treatise on the use of the semicolon; now I have to rethink everything I thought I knew about grammar.  Apparently, it's a no-no in fiction.  I always thought using a semicolon appropriately made me seem kind of smart.  But I guess that if you use something to make you seem kind of smart, you are probably showing that maybe you aren't so smart after all.  Sigh. 

So here a link to my favorite source of knowledge, Wikipedia, regarding the semicolon:

The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark with several uses. The Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder established the practice of using the semicolon mark to separate words of opposed meaning, and to indicate interdependent statements.[1] The earliest, general use of the semicolon in English was in 1591; Ben Jonson was the first notable English writer to use them systematically. The modern uses of the semicolon relate either to the listing of items, or to the linking of related clauses.

This useful  history of the semicolon is followed by several great examples.  I will bow to the greater minds and try hard to keep the semicolon out of my fiction; but I am going to use the heck out of it when I blog, dammit! 


  1. LOL. I'm a great semicolon fan too. I'm also a big fan of the em-dash, which I now use in place of the verboten semicolon. Don't look it up, though. I don't want anyone telling me to stop using my em-dashes!

  2. Suzanne;
    The em-dash is another favorite of mine. When I look in to that one, I'll be sure to avoid any research involving anti-em-dash sentiment. Normally, I feel pretty strongly about exploring all sides of an issue but it's my blog and not Fox News OR NPR, so I can say what I want about punctuation.