Friday, October 28, 2011

The Most Feared Punctuation on Earth

I'll admit it: I'm extremely partial to semicolons. That's not to say I like them when they're used poorly, and I have been known to substitute an em-dash in a pinch. But, as one of my dear proofreaders can attest, I do tend to throw out semicolons like rice at a wedding (or like rice used to be thrown at weddings, before it was deemed hazardous to birds).

Today I ran across a funny article by The Oatmeal titled, "How to Use a Semicolon: The Most Feared Punctuation on Earth." If you're struggling with the rules of semicolon-age, or just want a good laugh, head on over there to read the rules, see the examples, and enjoy the funny illustrations. You can learn why, "The ice cream truck man drove by my house today; he had big, hairy knuckles" is a prime candidate for semicolon insertion, whereas, "I fought the bear and won. Also, I never kiss plague rats on the mouth," should stick with the more humdrum punctuation of a full stop.

I also enjoyed the explanation of how the semicolon can be used as a "super comma," enabling you to create descriptive lists such as this one:
My favorite people include Samuel Slaughterjaws, a famous unicorn hunter; my uncle Wilfred, a world champion at mayonnaise eating contests; and Nikola Tesla, the most awesome dude to ever fire a lightning bolt at an angry peasant.

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