Saturday, September 25, 2010

Let Us Not, Dear Friends, Forget Our Dear Friend the Semicolon

In case you were unaware, yesterday was National Punctuation Day. According to the official site, National Punctuation Day is "a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis". On the spectrum of blink-and-you'll-miss-them holidays, this basically falls somewhere between International Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day* and Felt Hat Day. Unlike the aforementioned holidays, however, I feel this one is slightly more respectable. No offense to the felt-hat-wearing pirates out there.

It got me thinking about what my favorite punctuation mark was. Well, no. I already knew what it was. You know you're a writer when you have a favorite punctuation mark in the first place, but I digress. Really, this National Punctuation Day felt like the perfect excuse to pimp my beloved semicolon.

Because, let's face it, folks, the semicolon is awesome.

I know, I know, you're wondering what's so special about the semicolon? Who even uses semicolons anymore? To the first question, I counter with another question: what isn't special about the semicolon? Semicolons can do the work of a comma or a period; they're very versatile! See? And can you connect two independent clauses by just existing? I DIDN'T THINK SO.

As to the second question, I DO. And so should you! Because this is not just a post to celebrate the natural marvel that is the semicolon, but also to raise awareness about its endangered state. Yes, dear readers, I am afraid that the semicolon population is in a state of alarmingly rapid decline! But YOU can do something to stop this tragedy before it's too late.

Use the semicolon; it's what you were meant to do.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a poem I composed to express my gratitude to that brave, thankless punctuation mark:

Ode to the Semicolon

O, semicolon!
You who eat independent
Clauses for breakfast!

We salute you, friend!
 Your punctuation powers
Without which, we'd fail!

O, semicolon!
Never think we do not love
You, our favorite.

You know my favorite punctuation mark, but now I wonder: what's yours, dear readers? Are you infatuated with the comely comma? Or maybe you get a thrill out of using an exclamation mark! Do share.

* Interesting side note: apparently ninjas wanted a slice of the holiday pie, too, as they now have their own day. Day of the Ninja is December 5th. Mark your calendars, otherwise it may sneak up on you. *rimshot*


  1. Semicolons FOR THE WIN. I am, of course, a big fan of the exclamation point, as most obnoxious former crackfiction writers are, but the semi-colon is special. For me, I think it might be a mark of vanity; I love feeling like I know how to use it when so many others fail. FAIL. Whether or not I actually DO know how to use it... well.

    Other punctuation marks that I pretentiously love: INTERROBANG!

  2. @Adriane - Exclamation marks do seem to have that flair for the dramatic! ;) And I know what you mean about the vanity; I think that's partly where my great love for the semicolon originally derived itself from. You know me -- I like to be different. xD

    Also, might I ask, why do we not have the interrobang in the English language?! It would be so convenient, like just then, for instance.

  3. I didn't have a favourite until people started abusing these little guys: '''. I have tried to shield them from the troublesome letters that misuse them, but it has been difficult. Those plural-gangs are the most mischievous.

  4. @Platy - Oh, yes, those poor abused apostrophes! I have to confess, those plurals that end in S have always confused me. For so long, teachers told me to use just the apostrophe, then my AP Lit teacher said an apostrophe and another S. I just don't know what's real anymore! ;)

  5. @H. N. Stone
    Ah, that's for possessives. For plurals that end in S, you definitely put just an apostrophe after it. For names that end in S, you apparently put 's [but I find it cleaner to just have the apostrophe *shrugs*].

    The plural-gangs I speak of have the apostrophe inside the plural. EG: the plural of dog is dog's to some people. Anything like that makes me growl. ;)

  6. While I do use the exclamation mark a lot and kind of love it, my heart is with the comma. It is common yet sometimes criminally under-used and often abused. It's not that hard people! Just put it at the natural pause! Commas are your friends!

    Love your post on the semicolon though. It should be used more, but only if people know what they're doing. ;)

  7. @fruitplaty - Okay! See, I learn something new every day! That issue with the plural-gangs can definitely be an irritation, especially given how simple the rule with that is. But then the English language does like to be so tricky, even with the easy punctuation laws! ;)

    @Krispy - Very nicely put! In my writing, commas are like my bffs. I use them all the time, although perhaps too much. xD They're very handy! And thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. ^^