In defense of the semicolon

Kurt Vonnegut called the semicolon a "transvestite hermaphrodite representing absolutely nothing." He was wrong.

Kurt Vonnegut
(Image credit: AP Photo)

Among the latest shocking news in the world of lexicography is that "tl;dr" has been added to the Oxford Dictionaries Online. This is remarkable for two reasons. First, it may be the only initialism ever in common use — common colloquial use, yet — to include a semicolon. Second, the semicolon is used correctly.

The semicolon is not the most abused punctuation mark; that prize goes to the apostrophe. But I suspect that no punctuation mark is more threatening or despised than the semicolon. And yes, it's also heavily misused. Which is in itself odd; you see, the rules for its use are breathtakingly simple. And it's a very useful little mark when used well.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.

SUBSCRIBE & SAVE
https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/flexiimages/jacafc5zvs1692883516.jpg

Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us