Some Thoughts on Semicolons


I've gone soft on semicolons. For years, my position on these strange little squiggles has been as follows: I hate them.

I have good reason.

Semicolons don't come up much in my editing work. Most writers don't bother with them. Perhaps they understand how useful semicolons are not. Or maybe they're unsure how to use them and figure, "Hey, I've gotten this far without using semicolons. Why learn now?"

But the writers who do use semicolons — well, they're the reason I hate semicolons. Here's an excerpt from an article I edited in which the writer quotes a therapist at a spa. "'Now shower; and your skin will feel like new,' she said."

In that sentence, you could replace the semicolon with a period and start a new sentence. Or you could use a comma. Or you could use nothing. That raises the question: Why did the writer use the semicolon? I explore that question in full here.

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