March 4, 2008

If I can punctuate it there, I can punctuate it anywhere...

It's so good to know I'm not the only one who still appreciates a good semicolon.

First, The New York Times wrote this great item about a subway ad that contains a correctly used semicolon. The ad is meant to remind people not to leave their used newspapers behind. Its closing line is “Please put it in a trash can; that’s good news for everyone.”

Many editors would change that semicolon to a period. I think that would be wrong. The "that" refers directly back to the antecedent action of putting the paper in the trash; to separate the two with a full stop would be too much of a break.

I'm not sure why journalists particularly (though they are not alone) have developed an aversion to the semicolon. I'm just glad that Neil Neches, a writer in the New York City Transit marketing department, brought the matter up for public discussion, although I'm sure he didn't intend to do so.

Furthermore, Erin McKean, a lexicographer, has proposed a Semicolon Appreciation Society. Sign me up!

It's late, but I might as well point out, while I'm at it, that today is National Grammar Day.

1 comment:

  1. the semi-colon was my nemesis in college duringmy first semester at rollins. i had a prof who would not let anyone turn in any more assignments until they had passed a grammer exam. passing = perfect score. i took that stupid test 8 times before i passed. i was one of the fortunate few to pass it so quickly! the semi-colon beat me every single time.