On the semicolon

I have always been an ardent advocate for our undersung punctuation marks; the semicolon unquestionably counts among them. Fortunately, there are others whose advocacy is more effective than mine. I am told, for instance, that Semicolon by Cecelia Watson makes an eloquent and persuasive case for the semicolon's excellence, nobility, and versatility – and for the beauty that both it and its companion marks add to the language as a whole.

In his review of Semicolon, David Crystal shows us how a comparison between different ways of punctuating the same sentence illustrates different punctuations marks’ powers. These powers can indeed only be shown by example, not explained in written rules. The semicolon, David writes,

… does a job that no other punctuation mark does. And the way to see this is to develop a sense of the contrast. What happens if we punctuate a sentence differently?

I hope you feel inspired, next time you pick up your favourite writing utensil, to play around with punctuation a bit, and thereby learn to appreciate the unique personality of each mark!