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 firstname.lastname@example.org.