Why the Semicolon must DIE

In my head, all the snarky, badass, ridiculously talented and fucking hysterical writers hang out in one corner. They cheer me on and make me laugh – almost always at myself. I aspire to be like these people. Today, I get to introduce you to one of them. BALLER.

I met Guy Bergstrom on Twitter and promptly checked out his website. And laughed so hard and for so long that my husband came running in my office to check on me. True story. Once I recovered, I emailed Guy to tell him his writing is utterly fantastic. So birthed a friendship. It doesn’t hurt that he despises the semicolon as much as I do.

But you’re about to learn all about that.

While I’m away, play nice and try not to break anything.


A guest post by Guy Bergstrom

For years, the semicolon has lived among us, sucking the life out of strong sentences and giving English lit PhD candidates and literary novelists a handy tool to write sentences that never, ever come to a conclusion.

Hear me now and believe me later in the week: It is time, for the good of humanity, to take the semicolon behind the barn and put a bullet between its eyes.


Note: I don’t think Spock has to die. Spock rocks, and two Spocks are even better. I’d go for three, as long as they gave me one Evil Spock with a goatee from that episode where there was a parallel universe and such. If you asked any Spock about semicolons, he’d think through it and say, “The semicolon does indeed appear useless and should be dispensed with.” Then he’d blast the planet of the Pretentious Semicolon Users with all kinds of photon torpedoes.



Why kill the semicolon? I’ll give you all kinds of reasons.

Reason No. 1: The Semicolon is Indecisive

Either you end a sentence or you don’t. End it with a period, pause it with a comma, spice it up with phrase set off by dashes (or whisper to your reader with a little parenthetical).

Semicolons are for writers who can’t decide. Should I stay or should I go?

Reason No. 2: The Semicolon is Pretentious

Every smartypants writer goes through a phase where they try to outdo their professors by writing even denser, “more difficult” text that is so full of sturm and drang. The stuff so packed with insane Brobdignagnian adjectives and concepts – like the Kant’s categorical imperative and how it relates to Maslow’s hierarchy of need – that nobody, not even the writer, understands what they’re trying to say.

Which is the point. “I’m so smart, flying at such an intellectual height, that yes, you may have difficulty wrapping your tiny little head around all those big, complicated ideas. Sorry. Happens all the time. Maybe, one day, you’ll get it.”

Semicolons were invented for these people. The ones who don’t believe in short sentences, or explaining it like I’m five. (Reddit!)

Some writers never grow out of this phase. And they use semicolons as a tool to make the simple complicated and the complicated impossible.

This will continue until we whack them upside the noggin with Volume 6 of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Reason No. 3: The Silly Semicolon Stands in the Way of Progress

For some reason, keyboards only have a few punctuation marks. The same old ones that have been there since Abe Lincoln wrote term papers using a typewriter he carved out of a tree or whatever.

Comma, semicolon, colon, period, exclamation point, question mark. That’s all you get.

No. Give us more.

Don’t we deserve other choices? Isn’t the English language evolving at the speed of text? LOL and ROTFLMAO are OMGing into the dictionary faster than Miley Cyrus can take off her clothes.

Stick the interrobang on the keyboard, so we can write awesomely intense sentences that end in a question.


Give us the acclamation mark for happy joy-joy.


Give us a mark for ironic sentences, another for sarcasm and something for doubt.




Because there is something we need to ask ourselves: is English alive or dead?

If it’s dead and unchanging, then we’re stuck with the stupid semicolon forever and ever. But if language is more alive and kicking than Celine Dion’s singing career, then there’s hope for us all, and a chance to make it better – by casting aside obsolete and unhelpful garbage like the semicolon and embracing the new, the fresh and the interesting.

All I ask for is a new punctuation mark showing my distaste for the Kardashians, Lindsey Lohan and the entire cast of Jersey Shore.

If you come up with something, give me a holler.


Guy Bergstrom is a reformed journalist who now works as a speechwriter. He’s represented by literary agent Jill Marr. You can reach him on Twitter @speechwriterguy, on his blog www.redpenofdoom.com, or send secret emails to guybergstrom@gmail.com.

Book burning’s digital counterpart. It’s happening right now.

Short version: Amazon and Kobo, among others, began mass deleting self-published erotica last month in response to some media heat from articles like this one from The Kernel. The online magazine recently released what it calls an investigative report called “How Amazon Cashes in on Kindle Filth.”

Except Amazon and other digital book big shots aren’t deleting erotica from publishing houses.

What. The. Fuck.

• • •

For clarity, I’m not interested in reading about incest, rape or anything else that denigrates another human. But I also believe it’s not up to me to say what should or shouldn’t be published. Because, well, the First Amendment.

Anyway, Amazon created this computer filtering system that alerts them if certain words are in a book.

Let’s take “incest,” as an example.

Victoria Lexington’s novel, Sex and the Social Network, made it to #2 in erotica on October 14 (see image below) – before Amazon deleted it. It also earned a mention in USA TODAY on October 25 (fourth paragraph here), and had forty-five 4- and 5-star reviews. This book has flashbacks to childhood incest, as well as a rape scene. Fun? No. But things that give a character depth.


Things that Lexington said many readers told her made her book better than others in the same genre. Her characters are real.

Sticking point:

Other books with similar taboo topics – The Kite Runner, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Flowers in the Attic, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – and those with far more controversial material, are NOT being deleted by Amazon and Kobo.

You can still get a fresh copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, arguably the biggest piece of literary garbage to infect this century. Because BDSM – even with shit grammar, sentence fragments, nonsensical adverbs and no plot – is somehow more appropriate than a book that shows a character flashing back to a less than rosy childhood.

The Digital Reader and Salon both wrote about the issue this month, so I won’t belabor the point. You can read both pieces by following the links below.

Self-Published Erotica is Being Singled Out For Sweeping Deletions From Major eBookstores

Amazon’s porn censorship is inconsistent and unfair

This is a link directly to KDP’s discussion forum, where authors are asking why their books have been removed. It’s no hoax.

Meantime, self-published authors with the “offensive” books in question are receiving emails like this from Amazon.

Hello, We’re contacting you regarding the following book(s) that you submitted for sale in our Kindle Store:

XXX XXXX XXXXX Digital Item ID:XXX000XX ASIN:000000 During our review process, we found that your book contains content that is in violation of our content guidelines.

Our content guidelines apply to the book interior, as well as cover image, title and/or product descriptions. As a result,

we will not be offering this book for sale.

Our content guidelines are published on the Kindle Direct Publishing website. To learn more, please see:


Best regards,

Kindle Direct Publishing kdp.amazon.com

And that’s it.

Sure, they can appeal. Anyone want to wager on how far they’ll get?

I call this new age book burning. Yes, the shit that’s emblematic of oppressive regimes.

Think about it.

What’s the difference between good old-fashioned biblioclasm and what Amazon is doing here with self-published erotica?

And how dare we allow it.


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