Editorial Geekery: Death To The Semicolon


During darker days in our editorial department, battle lines had been drawn over the humble semicolon. Some have stormed out in frilly-cuffed tantrums. Others merely pointed their flintlocks at the other.

Glad to see we're not the only ones. And the Guardian book blog has jumped in to ask about the value of it. Told you it was geeky.

I wonder what other writerly and bookish type folk think of it?

7 comments:

George Stirling said...

They have their uses; and used well, they are very effective.

More concerning is the attitude that their 'death' can be declaimed when such a prescriptive attitude would be looked down upon by those who believe that language should be allowed to evolve in any direction any particular writer would like. Surely a true descriptivist would accept that semicolon use is on the decline, but that usage is a matter of taste rather than something which is somehow outdated or unnecessary.

The end result is that people are thinking about semicolons; job done, I reckon.

Simon Haynes said...

I have four novels in print now, and I didn't need a semi-colon in any of them. I think my editor put a couple in during revisions but I pulled them out again. The suggested revision sounded stilted to me.

J.G. Thomas said...

I love 'em. I mean, they just look cool don't they?

Seriously, I think they can work effectively when used in the right way.

I would go into more detail but given that I'm at work and don't fancy getting the sack any time soon, I think I better not.

James Maxey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Maxey said...

Hell yes we need the semicolon!

Sometimes two thoughts blend together but a conjunction somehow wrecks the flow.

Sometimes two thoughts blend together; a conjuction somehow wrecks the flow.

I admit, it's the second most misused punctuation mark after the apostrophe. That's no reason to ban it. There are tools that surgeons use that you wouldn't trust in the hands of the average Joe. Should we ban scalpals?

My advice is to leave some things to the professionals. Amateurs are likely to hurt themselves if they tangle with a semicolon or trip over an elipses--and god help us all if they get their hands on the em dash.

Chris, The Book Swede said...

I used to hate the semi-colon.
I do tend to use it a lot more, now, though; when writing fiction, I use it fairly often. Sometimes periods are too final. Commas not final enough.

Did I just call it a "period"?! My Englishness!?! A full stop, I should say.

And yes, they look awesome.

Chris

Chris said...

Aye, it's the Americanisation of the English language which annoys me: no, I will not have a regular Coke - and a period occurs once a month, apparently.

As for the semi-colon, I love it; and I think I know how to use it.

I think.