Guys, here’s an embarrassing fact about me. I’m really into punctuation. Not, like, in sexy ways. But it’s very important to me. I have considered getting a punctuation tattoo. (Not going to happen, but I’ve considered it.) I punctuate text messages exceptionally well. It takes a lot of effort since I don’t have a smart phone. My phone is an idiot. The problem, however, is that I can’t do apostrophes because there is no way to make them appear with my key pad as far as I know. I can hyphenate. I can exclaim. I can parenthesize. But I cannot effectively form contractions or indicate possession. This handicap is a major factor in my impending iPhone purchase. It makes me very self-conscious to send half-assedly punctuated texts.
But that is beside the point. What I really wanted to write about today was the semicolon. It is a very useful but widely underutilized bit of punctuation. Clearly someone at one point thought it was important, since it’s where your pinky naturally rests when typing on a QWERTY keyboard. You don’t even need to hit shift to use it. Take that, colon! (That’s apostrophe, too, but a different kind. The literary kind where you refer to something that is dead or cannot respond.)
The semicolon is used (passive voice, ugh, sorry!) to join two independent clauses without the use of a coordinating conjunction (and, but, yet, etc.). You can employ the semicolon when two sentences are intimately related and flow easily into one another. It’s really useful for manipulating the rhythm of a paragraph. Now I’m starting to think that you think that I think this is sexy, but I swear it’s (not “its”) not.
For example, instead of:
The guys in Tap Out shirts at the end of the bar kept playing Nickelback on the jukebox, and I wanted to seal my ears shut forever.
The guys in Tap Out shirts at the end of the bar kept playing Nickelback on the jukebox. I wanted to seal my ears shut forever.
You could write:
The guys in Tap Out shirts at the end of the bar kept playing Nickelback on the jukebox; I wanted to seal my ears shut forever. (Just one space after a semicolon, guys. It’s space and energy efficient!)
The only problem with the semicolon is that when you use it, people think you’re a pretentious dick. Now, as you can tell by the rest of this blog entry, I kind of am one, but you don’t have to be. Are hippies pretentious for driving hybrids? No, they’re pretentious for acting like everyone can afford to drive one. Are film buffs pretentious for suggesting that they enjoy Sideways more than The Big Lebowski? Yes. But you wouldn’t be like that. You would be like a vegan who doesn’t throw your meat-eating in your face. (Disclaimer: Most vegans are reasonable.) Or maybe you would be like a person with a PhD in English that doesn’t get bent out of shape if you call him/her Mr./Ms. Yeah, you’d be a real smart and reasonable person.
So everyone, let’s embrace the semicolon; it’s not just for booknerds anymore.
(Also, this week I’m performing at Mottley’s at 8pm on Thursday and The Comedy Studio at 8pm on Friday and Saturday.)