Saturday, February 2, 2013

Punxsutawney Phil & Punctuation

Poor guy.
Both PP & P will be discussed in this, my first official Inkpot post in a long time, but if you thought I’d find a way to tie the topics together, sorry. The headline was just an irresistible alliteration as well as a shameless attempt to get picked up by search engines. This is mostly about punctuation and a little bit about Punxsutawney Phil. 

First, the groundhog.

I don’t get what the fuss is all about. Six weeks of winter means different things to different regions, so why is this always national news? Also, where is PETA when you want it? That poor rodent.

Now on to punctuation, specifically the semi-colon. A few of us on the Inkpot have taken on the topic of favorite and least-favorite punctuation. Liza Ketchum found and shared a lovely poem that made punctuation sexy and Anne Ursu introduced us to National Punctuation Day.  Em dashes and ellipses have also inspired Inkpotters. 

Today we’re discussing the semi-colon.  In my writing the semi-colon is more of a tic than a tool. When editing my last couple of projects I‘ve conceded as much, and I now do a search for all semi-colons when revising so that I can consider and likely change them all, just like I search for certain words (such as just).   

I did just such a search yesterday, and the result was 66 semi-colons in 282 pages. Too much? Some people would say that even one is too much. In case you’re one of those people, maybe you should read this interview with the semi-colon. It’s a much stronger defense than I would be able to muster. Enjoy.


  1. Alas, Marsha, though I'm anti-ellipsis sometimes, I'm often a loyal semi-colon fan. And wasn't William Faulkner one as well? Or what did he use to splice his sentences together?

  2. Nobody knows what the hell Faulkner was doing ... no, just kidding. I looked at a couple of pages of Light in August and mostly he used commas. After 3 pages I ran into a semicolon. But I'd have to read more on that score -- it would definitely be a good exercise to read Faulkner or any other good author and see how each one uses punctuation to create the rhythm and flow of her sentences.

    I'm pretty awful with semicolon usage these days, I tend to drop comma splices everywhere I go. I need to get back to reading E.B. White again. I think the best uses of semicolons (or indeed, any other punctuation marks) is when they're used stealthily; if you use them well you don't even see them hiding there.

    As far as punctuation goes, I am an extremist in exclamation mark usage! It comes from being wound up so tight all the time.

  3. Seriously, PETA should step in; Phil needs an intervention. Oh, the semi-colon, def. a tic here, too. Seems the only way to rid the MS of them is to burn the whole thing (sorry, TMI. Can you tell how this morning's revision sesh went down)? Anyway, time for a shower and then back to it... (obviously, ellipsis rehab is still necessary...). I'll read the interview this weekend. Thanks, MQ!

  4. p.s. Laurie Halse Anderson uses punctuation to startling effect in Wintergirls. Def. a must read, all.

  5. p.p.s. And, unlike Melinda's extremist tendencies towards exclamation marks (which is uber-naughty yet understandable), I'm a pacifist towards indefinite articles. Picture above an "a" between "to" and "startling."