semicolons (like giant commas)

As I’ve talked about before, I’m fascinated by commas and related matters, so this new video at the New Yorker website caught my eye: “The Semicolon; or, Mastering the Giant Comma.”

Definitely worth watching (Hey, you get to find out who invented the semicolon — imagine inventing a piece of punctuation that actually gets adopted by the language 🙂 ).

However, as I’ve also reported before, the idea of videos from the New Yorker seems sort of wrong. And I really like my language-related information to be in text form, so I can refer to it easily. And it turned out that Mary Norris, the “comma queen,” has written a book: Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.

So I bought the book.

Wait, do you think that was the idea all along…

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4 Responses to semicolons (like giant commas)

  1. Maggie says:

    I went through a phase when I used semicolons all the time. Now they just irritate me. I’ve wanted to read Between You & Me for a long time… let us know how it is!

  2. My mother found semicolons irritating, too. I think she thought they were pretentious.

    I use them when appropriate, which was not always the case, but in a lot of situations I go for the two-short-sentences solution instead.

    In writing dialogue, I’ve found that I only use semicolons for characters who would know what semicolons are and who would use them correctly when writing.

  3. SB Roberts says:

    I’d never heard of her before, but this is an excellent explanation. I think I know what to use when discussing it with my 7th and 8th graders this year. 🙂

  4. I think I first encountered her here:
    This is more or less the beginning of the book, and discusses some aspects of the New Yorker house style, including the commas.

    Other aspects are talked about here:

    And others include the fact that they are probably the only publication which would style the New York Times this way:
    The New York Times.

    I like that kind of thing.

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