The NYT celebrates the semicolon

I’m a big fan of the semicolon, and apparently so is the New York Times. I had to share this gem from their feature:

One of the school system’s most notorious graduates, David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer who taunted police and the press with rambling handwritten notes, was, as the columnist Jimmy Breslin wrote, the only murderer he ever encountered who could wield a semicolon just as well as a revolver. Mr. Berkowitz, by the way, is now serving an even longer sentence.

And this, I thought, was an apt description:

In literature and journalism, not to mention in advertising, the semicolon has been largely jettisoned as a pretentious anachronism.

Americans, in particular, prefer shorter sentences without, as style books advise, that distinct division between statements that are closely related but require a separation more prolonged than a conjunction and more emphatic than a comma.

“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life,” Kurt Vonnegut once said. “Old age is more like a semicolon.”

I personally love anachronisms; that’s probably why I love semicolons.

2 thoughts on “The NYT celebrates the semicolon

  1. Semicolons feel natural to me I would say I use them maybe 5-10 a week. If your write in a conversational style they are essential because we tend to denote periods & commas with different types of pauses in conversation than what a semicolon would warrant in everyday conversation. I never understood what the need was for a different standard for written communication versus verbal communication…obviously I struggled in English class.

    I also like it when people use “…”

    …by the way, is it dialogue or dialog? How do you spell it?

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