Friday, February 22, 2008

The Punctuation of Style

After the busiest two days I’ve had in a long time, I’m able to return to the blogosphere.

I was inspired by a post made by The Thoughtful Dresser on Feb 21 about the semi-colon, which immediately made me think of how the semi-colon can be a metaphor for style.

For in writing, a semi-colon is something vaguely dangerous, an element that people are actually afraid to use, for fear of getting it wrong (I have ten years of student comments supporting this fact).

Indeed, wielding a semi-colon correctly makes a statement: this author is confident in his/her writing and claims a certain authority. But use a semi-colon instead of, say, a colon, and your statement loses some of its punch.

Style’s like that too. Who’s confident enough to wear a semi-colon? Does the semi-colon properly punctuate your look or render it ungrammatical?

But then another issue arises: Are you a sentence-fragment sort of woman or a complex-sentence lass? Who’s to say the semi-colon is “correct,” anyway?

Ahh . . . something new for grammarians to puzzle over: the punctuation of style.


Toby Wollin said...

I tend to use a lot of dashes between phrases, which I suppose makes me wishywashy. My bugaboo is the comma, frankly; I use far too many of them and in inappropriate places, I am sure. I'm still looking around for the little grammar books that we used when I was in junior high - my memory was that they were somewhat smaller than 5x8 and contained such arcane topics as sentence diagramming.

miss cavendish said...

Maybe you could think of your dashes as Dickinsonian (Emily) rather than as wishy washy!

And sentence diagramming is still in vogue, amazingly; my husband teaches it in his English language structure class. The students find it akin to physics.

enc said...

I've never been afraid to use the semi-colon; I believe it's worthwhile if used correctly.

But that's just me!

I'm more of a parenthesis girl in my style.

Sm. said...

This brings two of my favourite things together: grammar and fashion. I like your analysis of the semi-colon very much, as it's long been my preferred piece of punctuation.