“Do not use semicolons,” Kurt Vonnegut once said, “They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they show is that you’ve been to college.”
Vonnegut is not the only one with this hatred for semicolons. Throughout the years, several famous authors, writers, and readers, have expressed their feelings about this mark. In Semicolon, Cecilia Watson takes all that hate people have collected, and crafts a brilliant narrative about the semicolon — and why it should be loved.
Semicolon is a necessary book — not only a practical guide about the usages of the mark — but also, the rich history of punctuation, the future of grammar rules, and everything in between.
Look. I get it; you’re sitting here, brows raised, thinking; a whole book about semicolons...the author must be crazy. I can assure you, the author is very much sane. If it were a whole book about the practical usages and rules of semicolons, I’d be bored too. Lucky for you, Semicolon is a book about its namesake, and so much more.
Through the first few chapters, Watson expertly brings readers through the enticing history of the semicolon, adding a dash of feisty grammar wars, dead punctuation marks, and several rules re-questioned. The semicolon survived history’s brutal grammar wars when many other punctuation marks didn’t. Why?, the book makes us question. Because the semicolon — unlike the mirrored question mark — is useful. Watson continues this trend of thoughtful questions throughout the book and the most interesting of facts you’d never know you needed. How many semicolons exactly are in Moby Dick? (This may surprise you). Exactly how many grammarians existed before the well-known Chicago Manual of Style existed? Are grammar rules unnecessary? Who were our most famous grammarians? Was there in fact a time when the usage of a semicolon could have saved somebody’s life? Is there a horse and a jury case called the semicolon? These, and many more questions will be presented, answered, and re-thought using Watson’s brilliant language throughout the book.
“The semicolon,” Watson writes, “is a place where our anxieties and our aspirations about language, class and education are concentrated. In this small mark, big ideas are distilled down to a few winking drops of ink.”
With this sharp precision and specific descriptions, Watson discards all the semicolon myths and brings to light the truth about punctuation. By raising thoughtful questions, talking about history all with precise and specific language, Watson crafts a book that every grammar enthusiast, history-nerd, and writer will enjoy. Semicolon opens your eyes to the impact of punctuation and grammar throughout history, introducing fun facts and stories and most important of all, a profound love for the semicolon.
first ventured into the world of writing with her sister. Since then, she has gone to explore different genres and styles: short fiction, literary fiction and most recently, non-fiction. When she’s not writing she can be found spending time with family, going on walks, or watching the latest grammar videos. Follow her on Instagram @mashalashfaqofficial.