Same sex marriage survey and the semicolon

When I posted this on facebook the night of the marriage survey results, I got a number of responses from friends agreeing with the sentiment (we have the lefty gen X ambivalence to marriage) but my favourite comment was ‘nice use of the semicolon’.

I thought so too, so I was secretly glad he noticed.

I could have separated the two statements with a comma, or made them two separate sentences, but neither of these were quite right, I needed the subtle power of the semicolon to show the relationship of these two observations. This is when a semicolon is at the height of its powers, separating and joining at the same time. It keeps things close, but not too close.

As The Style Manual says:

… although the semicolon is often neglected, it is a very useful punctuation mark and, properly employed, can bring elegance and variety to your writing.

‘Properly employed’ in this context means that:

  1. it’s used to separate clauses, not phrases or single words
  2. the clauses on either side are of equal weight, maybe even symbiotic.

Even though writing fashion is shifting towards lighter punctuation, I think there will always be a place for this lovely little mark that does so much with so little.

Of all the things to come out of Wednesday’s postal vote survey result, I bet you never thought one of them would be an ode to the semicolon.