THEORIES FOR USING SEMI-COLONS. I was on a train with Mary Jane and Annalisa when I came across a letter to the Economist (March 26) protesting the excessive use of the semi-colon by the Economist. (Here is a link; the letter is the last item). The letter had a quote from Kurt Vonnegut that I had posted on several years ago (here): “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

We all agreed that we liked the semi-colon. I think that what we like is sentences that are structured so that the use of a semi-colon is appropriate. I said that I liked a semi-colon worked into a sentence with balanced clauses, much like an Alexander Pope couplet. Annalisa said that she had heard of a comparison of the clauses joined by a semi-colon as being like a married couple: “We are different, but forever linked.”

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