The Semicolon—Sassy and Snooty—Rules and Uses
The Semicolon: She's Quite the Character
Imagine an upright lady adorned with lace gloves, corsets and curly-cue hair. Now you're getting an idea of the fancy Semicolon. She's snooty and sassy; she's a lady with Elizabethan roots.
Where did she come from?
An emergent character of the Renaissance era, she began to make her appearances just two years after Spain sent Columbus overseas.
A fine gentleman named Aldus Manutius began to use Miss Semicolon to highlight separate but interdependent statements in 1494.
From there, Lady Semicolon began showing up at ever-fancier parties of words and gatherings.
Authors the world over summoned Miss Semicolon in their literary circles; Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens were among her most supportive fans. George Orwell, however, couldn't stand her. He avoided Snooty Semicolon whenever possible. So did the American author Donald Barthelme.
Still, many literary types persist in using Lady Semicolon in their writings. She's ready to add her elegant touch to those who do not submit to her intimidation.
A Dinner Party for Lackluster Statements
Little Miss Semicolon chooses her surrounding company carefully. Her task is not a "job", but more like a social appearance at an esoteric gathering of followers.
She likes it that way. She avails herself to writers that boldly request her presence; other authors cringe in intimidation.
If you stand up to Snooty Semicolon, she will valiantly adorn your writing. She will infuse an air of grace to lackluster, short, block-y statements:
My hair was a mess this morning. I pinned it up. No one noticed.
These three sentences are short and stubby. Now, let's summon Lady Semicolon with her fancy graces:
My hair was a mess this morning; I pinned it up and no one noticed.
See? Miss Snooty graced us with her presence. I do believe we're better for it! She has refined our sentences and invited them to the dinner party.
We Know Charles Dickens Had Complex Sentences, But Did You Know...
Take a Look: A Haven for Punctuation Junkies
Snooty Semicolon Eschews Common Colon
Lady Semicolon is a cousin to Common Colon. She doesn't like to associate with him very much. He shows up where Dawdling Dash hangs out. These functions are too informal for her.
Common Colon shows up at the end of a sentence. He feels the need to explain himself further or offer up excuses to elongate statements. In other words, he must strain to supplement his sentences with more words.
Home ownership is sometimes a trying process: my bathroom faucet exploded this morning, spraying water all over me before I even had my first cup of coffee.
Colon also shows up to help make lists. Semicolon doesn't make lists; she's above such things!
I don't need much to be happy: a million dollars, a nice man, and a beach vacation.
There is one area in a punctuated life where Miss Semicolon garners a bit of jealously for Colon: he sets himself off in book titles.
The Life of the Chubby Black Cat: How His Antics Drove Me Batty
Rags to Chic: A Love Affair With Goodwill
A Walk In the Desert: How I Survived
So, with so much attention given to Colon, Snooty Semicolon crosses her arms and stamps away. Not to worry, though. She finds plenty of intellectual stimulation elsewhere.
Do You Use Lady Semicolon In Your Writing?
"Both the world of fashion and the Court of Chancery are things of precedent and usage; oversleeping Rip Van Winkles, who have played at strange games through a deal of thundery weather; sleeping beauties, whom the Knight will wake one day, when all the stopped spits in the kitchen shall begin to turn prodigiously!"— --Charles Dickens in Bleak House
Snooty Semicolon and Conjunctive Adverbs
Conjunctive what? A disease in Sub-Saharan Africa, conjunctive adverbs leave their owners mentally insane and without a will to live. Wait...that may be how people sometimes feel when asked to commiserate with Snooty Semicolon. Conjunctive adverbs are certainly not a disease.
But, Miss Semicolon doesn't have her nose too high in the air. She loves to have dinner parties with conjunctive adverbs. She knows they get a bad rap for their cumbersome name. She always dances with them and inserts herself just before the conjunctive adverb, then pairs up with her friend Cantankerous Comma.
Who are Sassy Semicolon's adverbial friends?
She has more friends, but the ones above are her absolute favorites. Just wait until they pair up - fantastic statements emerge that draw the reader in:
She bites her nails; consequently, her hands look terrible.
I enjoy mountain biking; however, I crash into tress on occasion.
Her hair is dark and shiny; moreover, she uses vinegar to condition it!
Is Semicolon Really That Snooty and Sassy?
Sure, Semicolon loves her lace gloves and formal dinner parties. She doesn't give Common Colon the time of day. She enjoys intimidating writers into a wanton disassociation of her.
She'll have you know that she's just a girl who wants to be loved just like anyone else, though. She doesn't mean to be trite with the commoners; she merely wants to live life on the up and up. She can't stand uppity comments in her honor, but prefers to surround herself with fine words and punctuated entities that enhance her propensity for lavishness.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun