Sunday, September 7, 2008


A bookish young relative sent me a little disquisition from the Salon site on the semicolon, a punctuation mark I really like. ...
Recently someone asked me what my favorite punctuation mark was. I did not even hesitate. The semicolon. Duh. To me, the semicolon has a certain elegance, like a vodka martini; I don't whip it out every day, but on occasion, and with great relish.

Read it all here. The accusation lodged against the semicolon is that it is somehow girly. Oh, well. Henry James could make a sentence go on for a whole page simply by grafting independent clauses together with semicolons. When I was teaching in Mexico I tried to get my students to learn the use of the mark, as in Spanish it is permissible to string together sentence after sentence, joining them only with commas; in English this habit will make horrible run-on sentences that are completely unacceptable. Semicolons will cure the problem. Some editors have an unreasoning prejudice against semicolons and excise them without mercy, and some like them just fine. It's kinda like cat people and dog people, I guess. I always suspected that the antis just didn't understand the true nature of the mark.

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