Semicolons; and their misuse

I have the fundamentals of writing down from a technical standpoint, though I’m still down on the whole ‘ability’ part, but I’m not perfect. At the technical part, I mean. Or the clear, concise opening sentence part. There are some elements of the written language I just don’t use, mainly because I don’t understand how to use them, and therefore don’t want to use them.

Take my little friend the semicolon. Aside from having a name that conjures up imagery of a person’s backside after a particularly invasive operation*, I am a bit crap with it. I do not really understand its purpose and as a result I fear and dislike it. As the dead bastard who was well good** Kurt Vonnegut said:

“Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”

Though, more pertinently, he also said this:

“Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

I do understand they have uses and meaning though, and as such I have been making a concerted effort over the last two years or so to use them more often. I have definitely used them, but I really don’t know if I’ve been using them correctly, such is my way of not bothering to search for something on the internet when I really could do very easily and sort all of this out right now.

But it’s at the point now where I feel I have to use them, even if there’s no need. They have been added to the ‘other two’ in the shape of commas and hyphens in the short list of Things I Use Too Much. Though also on that list is capital letters, full stops, inverted commas, speech marks, misplaced exclamation marks, blah de blah, etc etc; you get the point.

I have managed to eke out over 400 words here. Jeez.

*What I mean there is that they have a semi-colon, or half an anus. It is a joke in that it takes the word ‘semicolon’ and applies it literally to the physical well-being of an unnamed person. Let’s say it’s your mum, because it probably is – I’m going to call her Semicolon from now on, because she has had an operation to remove half of her brown asterisk. Do you see? Semi: half. Colon: colon. Now we all understand the incredible gift of humour I possess.

**”Late, great”

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3 Comments

Filed under Prattle

3 responses to “Semicolons; and their misuse

  1. I’ve been conscious of my growing semicolon usage over the last year. It’s like a drug. Trouble is, I know when to use one, but I’m buggered if I can actually explain it to anyone. Apart from the old “use it in lists” thing.

  2. pete485

    I use them all the time, but I too lack the proper confidence with them.

    I tend to use them where I want a sentence continuation, but don’t want to use a colon, which seems like a stronger barrier in the middle of the sentence.

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