Fuck the Semicolon

Vonnegut Reissue, so maybe he gets his due? He has his due, folks.

Vonnegut’s house is near my house. His tiny child’s hand-print is still in the cement.

Vonnegut never used a semicolon his entire life. Not one. Let’s all forget the semicolon, shall we?

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11 thoughts on “Fuck the Semicolon

  1. Hey Sean,

    Ha! I swear you have us bugged here in Buffalo at the &Now Conference (more on that later in another post). Yesterday, after lunch, Matt Bell, John Bradley and I were talking about various punctuation marks. Matt mentioned that he used the exclamation point with informed impunity in a recent story of his and I was singing the praises of the semicolon, especially thinking about how people like Virginia Woolf and William Gass use it. Matt responded, “Well, if you can use it like Gass, then you’re allowed too.” A point, like yours, well taken.

  2. How funny — I just gave this exact command (suggestion?) (recommendation?) to my comp students. You know, in the five or so years I’ve been teaching college English classes, I don’t think I’ve encountered a single student capable of correctly and effectively deploying the semicolon. Yet, for some reason, they all want to try.

  3. all my writing instructors both as an undergrad and grad student told us to never use semicolons. and while i rarely, if ever, use them, i am very fond of them for some unexplainable reason.

  4. until last month i might have said: semicolon in fiction? not a fan….

    but i wrote a short–one of the ones Sean calls persona pieces–where the narrator used tons of them….. like I can’t even count how many…

    we’ll see…..

  5. I like this post, it got me thinking. But I don’t want to fuck the semicolon. I like it when with language you can do things that everybody tells you you shouldn’t do. I like it when you use words or punctuation that everybody tell you you shouldn’t use. Ultimately, the problem is to make things work, of course. I find idiosyncrasies interesting, but always disagreeable. I would love to read a story with only semicolons, for example. I have a special fondness for the parenthesis, hated by the most. There is a great book, The Watcher (La giornata di uno scrutatore, 1963) by Italo Calvino, in which parentheses are used constantly to give to the thoughts of the narrator a sense of discontinuity and precariety. Language interests me for what you can do with it, even when it seems that everything has been done. I am not interested in restrictions as much as in possibilities.

    • Hey Luca, you know, I wonder what would be the result of fucking the semicolon, especially without protection. It’s pregnant with possibilities. I wonder if what was spawned would end up going grammar school. Ha!

      And I wonder if, like Calvino’s book, there was a book that only used semicolons for punctuation.

      Sometimes I feel like going out and reading 250 books on grammar, style, and usage like Gary Lutz did.

      Anyways, here’s an interesting article on the so-called fate of the semicolon: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/04/france.britishidentity

      • Re: Using only semicolons, apparently George Saunders had worked on a story where he did just that:
        “I love it; it is useful for many things. My understanding is, it is correctly used to join two complete, but related sentences; this way, the reader feels the link, albeit subtly. I love it so much, in fact, that I am currently writing a story made up of only semi-colons; it is quite a challenge, but I believe in it very much.”
        Does anyone know if that story ever materialized?

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