Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ode To The Semicolon

I have always rooted for the underdog, which would help to explain my devotion to a team that has never made it to a Super Bowl in their existence. But now I am going to take this cheering to a level of subliminty heretofore not expressed. I am going to talk punctuation.

More specifically, the misuse of punctuation. It truly shocks me the pervasion of sloppiness in writing. With the proliferation of e-mailing, texting and other 'shorthand' versions of writing, a subculture of punctuation paucity has flourished. And don't even get me started on texting acronyms like lol, roflmao & gtg (Question: Does anyone truly 'roll on the floor laughing their ass off'?). But aside from this bastardization of the language for brevity's sake (or to save money on texting charges), proper punctuation seems to have become a lost art.

I see you rolling your eyes. Stop it.

Punctuation, when used properly, delivers the message or the story in the proper timing; in the way the writer intended it. If not used properly, the message gets garbled, or worse, misunderstood. Hey, wars have happened over misunderstandings, so let's not trivialize punctuation, mmmkay?

Which brings me to the bastard stepchild of punctuation. The semicolon. It's sort of a colon, sort of a comma. And totally misused, or worse, ignored. Semicolons are very important in writing. They are used within a sentence to express a shift in thought yet still having connection to the initial thought, like the following: "I like to eat cows; however, they don't like to be eaten by me." Alas, such sublety is lost on many.

But let's talk about the poor semicolon for a moment. First off, it's a terrible name. Semicolon. It doesn't even rise to the level of a full colon; it's existence is to be only partially like a symbol that has the same name as the body part that carries human waste. How sad. "All I want to be is sort of like the punctuation mark named after the duct for carrying feces from the body."

Such humility.

We could all take a lesson from the humble semicolon and try to emulate its acceptance as a forgotten punctuation mark. The semicolon has been dealt an unfair hand, but it still sits there, ready to be used in its proper place. In fact, look at your keyboard right now - note that the semicolon shares a key with the colon (right side of the keyboard, next to the L). But a closer look will reveal that you do not have to hit the shift key to attain the semicolon, but you DO have to in order to get to the colon. What are the QWERTY creators telling us? That the semicolon is more important than the colon perhaps? That's how I choose to understand it.

So next time you are searching for that right punctuation mark, give the humble, underused and totally misunderstood semicolon a try.

But if you misuse it I will rof and lmao.

1 comment:

Gary V. said...

Hello again old friend...

My Gawd, did you eat a Thesaurus for dinner last night or what?

Has your life been brought to such a low (should I have used a semi-colon here?) by the Browns lack-luster of a season, to have nothing but punctuation to write about? GRIN
Reading all of that babble made my full colon feel the need to shift!

How would your readers, who may have had colon cancer and have had half of theirs removed, feel about your semi-colon beliefs....

What's next? Are you going to entertain us with something on the "lighter side", such as wafting farts? nyuk nyuk nyuk

Happy Holiday's Bub!!