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:
- it’s used to separate clauses, not phrases or single words
- 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.