Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a


Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark ❴Download❵ ➵ Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark Author Cecelia Watson – Thomashillier.co.uk A page turning, existential romp through the life and times of the world s most polarizing punctuation markThe semicolon Stephen King, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and Orwell detest it Herman Melville, Henry A page Past, Present, PDF/EPUB ¶ turning, existential romp through the life and times of the world Semicolon: The PDF or s most polarizing punctuation markThe semicolon Stephen King, Hemingway, Vonnegut, and Orwell detest it The Past, Present, Epub á Herman Melville, Henry James, and Rebecca Solnit love it But why When is it effective Have we been misusing it Should we even care In Semicolon, Cecelia Watson charts the rise and fall of this infamous punctuation mark, which for years was the trendiest one in the world of letters But in the nineteenth century, as grammar books became all the rage, the rules of how we use language became both stricter and confusing, with the semicolon a prime victim Taking us on a breezy journey through a range of examples from Milton s manuscripts to Martin Luther King Jr s Letters from Birmingham Jail to Raymond Chandler s The Big Sleep Watson reveals how traditional grammar rules make us less successful at communicating with each other than we d think Even the most die hard grammar fanatics would be better served by tossing the rule books and learning a better way to engage with languageThrough her rollicking biography of the semicolon, Watson writes a guide to grammar that explains why we don t need guides at all, and refocuses our attention on the deepest, most primary value of language true communication.


10 thoughts on “Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark

  1. Matt Matt says:

    Cecelia Watson, self professed member of the modern Grammar Police, takes readers on an interesting adventure in her exploration of the semicolon While this may seem a dull and esoteric journey, Watson makes it highly entertaining and informative as she investigates the origin of this punctuation mark that has not only fallen into disrepute, but also become something that angers many readers Created in the late 15th century in Italy, the semicolon was a special mark created by a printer to Cecelia Watson, self professed member of the modern Grammar Police, takes readers on an interesting adventure in her exploration of the semicolon While this may seem a dull and esoteric journey, Watson makes it highly entertaining and informative as she investigates the origin of this punctuation mark that has not only fallen into disrepute, but also become something that angers many readers Created in the late 15th century in Italy, the semicolon was a special mark created by a printer to set apart a piece he was publishing from all others at the time Its use remained stagnant until the 19th century, when it becamepopular There were no rules of English grammar or punctuation at the time, leading many to take up the effort to dictate to the general public how to write and how not to do so This included demonstrating the semicolon s use, but not always clearly defining the rules by which it could be used properly The book continues with some mention of how this piece of punctuation cost many people their lives, as it was inserted into or left out of legal statutes in the United States Watson explores how a single semicolon changes the interpretation of words to the point of sending a man to his death, while exonerating his willing accomplice Watson then tackles how some modern authors have used semicolons to shape their writing, sometimes defying the generally accepted rules laid out in the aforementioned grammatical guides The attentive reader will see just how useful and transformative the semicolon could be, allowing authors to take readers on adventures in a single sentence This exploration shows how a single punctuation mark can be so subjective in its use and provide such a headache to the reader, while also serving to pace the prose on the printed page, while also posing the question of being pretentious or useful It is not likely that the semicolon will gain its 19th century notoriety again, but I am happy that Cecelia Watson took the time to pen this piece and keep me on my toes as I learn Recommended to those who hold onto their Grammar Police badge with vigour, as well as the reader who loves to learn about all things linguistic.I remember seeing this book when it was newly published and wanted to get my hands on a copy However, my excitement had it relegated to a shelf, as I had lots going on at the time and could not get to it I am glad that I took the time to finally read this, as I did learn a great deal, even if I did not ascertain the rules by which I could and should use the semicolon in my writing I have survived well without using it and, truth be told, it ties me in knots to think about writing with it Watson does a fabulous job keeping things light while not skimping on the information presented Her approach is entertaining and the varied topics kept the momentum of the book moving at lightning speed While this topic does not seem to evoke laughter and enjoyment, Watson did remarkably well and I would hope readers take a gamble with this one A mix of long and short chapters, depending on the topic at hand, kept the story moving and the learning at a premium Grammarians of the worldfind mebooks like this or write them and I vow to improve my writing.Kudos, Madam Watson, for this great piece that has me cringing a little less at the semicolon.Love hate the review An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge


  2. Lou Lou says:

    The semicolon has to undoubtedly be the most divisive and misunderstood punctuation mark in history, closely followed by the Oxford comma In Semicolon, Ms Watson discusses the history, use, misuse and powerful impact the semicolon can have on a person s writing A famously tricky method of punctuation scares some, and hence why many shy away from even attempting to use it But, here, the author shows just how simple and effective it can be.The author has managed to make a rather dry topic quite The semicolon has to undoubtedly be the most divisive and misunderstood punctuation mark in history, closely followed by the Oxford comma In Semicolon, Ms Watson discusses the history, use, misuse and powerful impact the semicolon can have on a person s writing A famously tricky method of punctuation scares some, and hence why many shy away from even attempting to use it But, here, the author shows just how simple and effective it can be.The author has managed to make a rather dry topic quite lighthearted and entertaining through wit and humour that is interspersed throughout It is clearly extensively researched as all the information seems to be sound, and it s actually pretty fascinating Highly recommended to those who are sticklers for correct grammar and punctuation and those who wish to knowabout the semicolon Many thanks to 4th Estate for an ARC


  3. Lata Lata says:

    Based on the reviews, I thought this book would be a bitenjoyable And though I liked it, I didn t like it as much as I was expecting to It s well researched, with occasional moments of light humour about people arguing over grammar rules because, really, fighting over grammar is too funny, except when it s not, as the author illustrates in a murder case in the US many years ago upon which a man s life hung And though this book was about the semicolon which has been in existence since Based on the reviews, I thought this book would be a bitenjoyable And though I liked it, I didn t like it as much as I was expecting to It s well researched, with occasional moments of light humour about people arguing over grammar rules because, really, fighting over grammar is too funny, except when it s not, as the author illustrates in a murder case in the US many years ago upon which a man s life hung And though this book was about the semicolon which has been in existence since 1494 this book wasabout writing, the meaning of text and how that can change based on how sentences are punctuated, and the importance of communicating


  4. Niklas Pivic Niklas Pivic says:

    How should one go about writing a pop scientific book that is solely about the semicolon Is it best to be bone dry and scientific, as with most dictionaries, or bone dry and severely funny, as with Benjamin Dreyer s Dreyer s English Thankfully, Cecelia Watson approaches this nerdy subject with both clerical adroitness and humour, and she constructs all of this chronologically From the start of her book How did the semicolon, once regarded with admiration, come to seem so offensive, so unwiel How should one go about writing a pop scientific book that is solely about the semicolon Is it best to be bone dry and scientific, as with most dictionaries, or bone dry and severely funny, as with Benjamin Dreyer s Dreyer s English Thankfully, Cecelia Watson approaches this nerdy subject with both clerical adroitness and humour, and she constructs all of this chronologically From the start of her book How did the semicolon, once regarded with admiration, come to seem so offensive, so unwieldy, to so many people Asking this question might seem academic in all the worst ways what practical value could there be in mulling punctuation, and in particular its history, when we have efficiently slim guidebooks like Strunk and White s The Elements of Style and thick reference volumes like The Chicago Manual of Style to set straight our misplaced colons and commas We have rules for this sort of thing But rule based punctuation guides are a relatively recent invention.Indeed, the beginning of the book is the beginnings yes, plural of grammar, and Watson pulls this off by being discreet and funny at the same time Courts of law, too, were in a lather over how to deal with punctuation marks a semicolon in an 1875 legal statute caused all of Boston to fly into a panic when courts opined that the semicolon meant that alcohol couldn t be served past 11 00 P.M Bostonians, ever resourceful, devised some pretty clever ways to get drunk well into the wee hours until the statute was finally revised six years after it went into force That story brings the semicolon and how people perceive it to life Watson s view on linguistic rules is both sane and open I wouldn t deny that there s joy in knowing a set of grammar rules there is always joy in mastery of some branch of knowledge But there is muchjoy in becoming a reader who can understand and explain how it is that a punctuation mark can create meaning in language that goes beyond just delineating the logical structure of a sentence.Watson s use of examples, both in terms of style and real life legal wrangles, are illuminating, informative, scary, and funny Here s one magnificent example of legal issues due to a missing semicolon or, begrudgingly agreed, a rewrite A particularly heart wrenching case that was tried on the cusp of the Great Depression painfully illustrates the problems that can be caused by a missing semicolon In 1927, two men were convicted of murder in New Jersey.The jury s verdict and sentencing recommendation was written as follows We find the defendant, Salvatore Merra, guilty of murder in the first degree, and the defendant, Salvatore Rannelli, guilty of murder in the first degree and recommend life imprisonment at hard labor The judge interpreted the life imprisonment recommendation as applicable only to Rannelli, since that recommendation followed only the repetition of guilty of murder in the first degree after Rannelli s name Using this reasoning, the judge sentenced Salvatore Merra to death for the same crime.In an eleventh hour appeal, Merra s lawyer and New Jersey senator Alexander Simpson argued that the jury meant the life imprisonment recommendation to apply to both men otherwise, the jurors would surely have used a semicolon to separate their verdict on Merra from their verdict on Rannelli, so that the verdict would have read We find the defendant, Salvatore Merra, guilty of murder in the first degree and the defendant, Salvatore Rannelli, guilty of murder in the first degree and recommend life imprisonment at hard labor The prosecution, on the other hand, countered that the jury clearly intended for Merra to die.Watson goes through punctuation, grammar, and style by examining text and sayings by authors, for example, Irvine Welsh, Raymond Chandler, and Herman Melville.Speaking of the latter, Moby Dick contains around 210,000 words and 4000 semicolons one for every 52 words, of which Watson notes that t he semicolons are Moby Dick s joints, allowing the novel the freedom of movement it needed to tour such a large and disparate collection of themes There s a particularly wondrous dissing of David Foster Wallace, the author who is by many white men considered to be The Golden Child of the 21st century where language is concerned Watson not only disses his because form of logic stance on Standard written English, but also of his oft failed grammar It s fun to see, albeit a tad strange to see her rant go on for as long as it does.All in all, this is a fun book to read Watson has chosen to balance stories of grammatical rules and real life examples of how the semicolon has been used and abused , framing it all in neat paragraphs that stand out, simply because they re valuable If this is a sign of things to come from this author, I will keep eyes peeled


  5. Louise Louise says:

    I anticipated this book for weeks while I waited on the library reserve list The first 50 pages met my expectations After that, it looked like the author was trying to make a book out of an essay.The first three chapters give a history of the semi colon and a summary of how grammar rules evolved in the US My big take away from this section was that one s preference among conflicting rules depends on one s perspective on the finished product of the written text how it looks orthography , how I anticipated this book for weeks while I waited on the library reserve list The first 50 pages met my expectations After that, it looked like the author was trying to make a book out of an essay.The first three chapters give a history of the semi colon and a summary of how grammar rules evolved in the US My big take away from this section was that one s preference among conflicting rules depends on one s perspective on the finished product of the written text how it looks orthography , how it reads how it reads out loud prosody or adherence to the structure syntax.The subsequent chapters demonstrate the use of the semi colon with examples from case law and literature The best example given was a Martin Luther King speech which demonstrated the power of the semi colon written and spoken text There are examples of quasi punctuation marks such as the dash and parenthesis There is some wandering such as into other language issues i.e David Wallace Foster s challenge to his students that go beyond punctuation


  6. Moonkiszt Moonkiszt says:

    This short, intense book was a very pleasurable read I usually have a small goal when I begin each book hoping for a change, to take away a nugget, to learn a new fact, identify a take away sometimes they are specific and form in my brain before the book is opened and some pop up as it ends In this case, I wanted to know exactly what is the right function of a semicolon in the world of writing.HA Yeah I was engaged from the very beginning, stayed that way when it got technical Lau This short, intense book was a very pleasurable read I usually have a small goal when I begin each book hoping for a change, to take away a nugget, to learn a new fact, identify a take away sometimes they are specific and form in my brain before the book is opened and some pop up as it ends In this case, I wanted to know exactly what is the right function of a semicolon in the world of writing.HA Yeah I was engaged from the very beginning, stayed that way when it got technical Laughed when it was comical, outraged when the narrative went racial, and then when because of a semicolon a man lost his life for real he did stupid judge I was with it I just knew the book would end with the magic nugget I wished for Use for this, not for that, she is right, he is wrong, etc., etc There was a moment during the general punctuation discussion, and the purpose of all punctuation and grammar that reminded me of the basics of my very first introduction to musical notation the purpose to codify rhythm, volume, mood, atmosphere to express, to convey, to extractthan just notesthan just words As the end drew nearer it became clear Ms Watson was passionately persuading, and I could feel the pull The tide of her subtext argument was gathering.in fact, the sands supporting my readerly self were swiftly dissolving in an undertow that threatened to leave me adrift, and did Arguing for the art of vagarity, and so vagarious, she appears to present the semicolon as the best paintbrush for a pause for imprecise, inexact, indistinct, hazy atmosphere in our English language And this requires a relaxing of the Rules Perhaps even a banishment, at least as it relates to Semicolon Strict interpretation certainly cast OUT Rules only go so far, and semicolon goes beyond and should be allowed to go farther free interpretations for ALL This was a book to which I listened untouchable and already returned to the digital library from whence it came I need a TANGIBLE copy of this I will buy my own copy I will mark it up, write notes in its cracks and crevices, highlight quotes and dogear my favorite pages I will lipstick its inside covers with my own passion.Soon I hope she considers my favorite punc mark and writes her next book the ellipsis A romp if you are into these sorts of things Maybe even if you are not


  7. Pat Pat says:

    The title indicates this is a book all about semicolons, but grammar grammar manuals the teaching of grammar whether punctuation in general is a part of language and whether there should be rules for punctuation and grammar, and if they should be followed are also addressed There is also chapter devoted to style and the use of semicolons by authors as diverse as Henry Melville and Raymond Chandler, and how effectively these semicolons are used.I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in The title indicates this is a book all about semicolons, but grammar grammar manuals the teaching of grammar whether punctuation in general is a part of language and whether there should be rules for punctuation and grammar, and if they should be followed are also addressed There is also chapter devoted to style and the use of semicolons by authors as diverse as Henry Melville and Raymond Chandler, and how effectively these semicolons are used.I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review, and appreciate the opportunity


  8. Zephyr Zephyr says:

    I picked this up for a lark because I like semicolons, but it also makes a concise and persuasive argument that prescriptive punctuation rules are bunk, evenso than I ve always thought This tiny book has genuinely changed my mind about some things, and I feel freed.Apparently the prescriptive rules only started cropping up at all in the 19th century, as a result of competing grammarians Before that, punctuation was seen as purely expressive, subjective and musical just put the pauses wh I picked this up for a lark because I like semicolons, but it also makes a concise and persuasive argument that prescriptive punctuation rules are bunk, evenso than I ve always thought This tiny book has genuinely changed my mind about some things, and I feel freed.Apparently the prescriptive rules only started cropping up at all in the 19th century, as a result of competing grammarians Before that, punctuation was seen as purely expressive, subjective and musical just put the pauses where you want them or where they work best for the meaning or rhythm of the sentences, just as for pauses in music.Even the first grammar and style rulebooks also a fairly recent invention didn t even try to set rules for punctuation They just said, essentially, that there were none.This book also contains many interesting examples and examinations of the different ways authors have used semicolons Often I started reading these anecdotes thinking they might not be of interest, but they always were in the end.I wish I could compel every grammar stickler to read this book, along with The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy


  9. Alex Sarll Alex Sarll says:

    Yes, I freely admit it this is a very on brand book for me to read Although the British edition is misleading in its presentation you could undoubtedly learn something from this about the use of semicolons, but to read this lively and digressive essay primarily for practical reasons would be only a little better than reading Proust for the patisserie tips Watson takes us from the semicolon s birth in the Renaissance, alongside a host of other marks which proved not to share its staying powe Yes, I freely admit it this is a very on brand book for me to read Although the British edition is misleading in its presentation you could undoubtedly learn something from this about the use of semicolons, but to read this lively and digressive essay primarily for practical reasons would be only a little better than reading Proust for the patisserie tips Watson takes us from the semicolon s birth in the Renaissance, alongside a host of other marks which proved not to share its staying power through attempts at pinning down its exact attributes, none of which wholly satisfied to the legal ructions it has caused She examines its use by various writers, some of whom you d expect, like Melville or Henry James You can never revise too often I used to tell students, before I had read much James others not so much We ve already seen Irvine Welsh use it in Scots dialect in the previous chapter, and not because he s trying to make his characters sound like they went to Eton and are internationally ranked in dressage She s the sort of person who has a favourite grammarian Isaiah J Morris What can I say I like a sharp spoken rebel she has one passage which is pure poetry about the semicolon as it manifests in different typefaces Palatino s is a thin flapper in a big hat, slouched against a wall at a party But for all her obvious love of this most elegant piece of punctuation, she is above all aware that it should be a servant rather than a master


  10. Jessie Jessie says:

    This book had some very interesting, albeit somewhat idealistic ideas, about punctuation and grammar Although the semicolon was mostly at the centre of the book, there were a lot of detours to grammar and other punctuation marks This was not at all unpleasant, but I felt like Watson could have broadened the scope of her book by calling it a history if punctuation and broadening the work with eveninformation on those marks beside the semicolon Nevertheless the book was clever, we ll st This book had some very interesting, albeit somewhat idealistic ideas, about punctuation and grammar Although the semicolon was mostly at the centre of the book, there were a lot of detours to grammar and other punctuation marks This was not at all unpleasant, but I felt like Watson could have broadened the scope of her book by calling it a history if punctuation and broadening the work with eveninformation on those marks beside the semicolon Nevertheless the book was clever, we ll structured and interesting and will give the reader a multitude of sometimes philosophical anecdotes which one can use with regards to ideas on rules and who decides what the rules are If you re interested in grammar and punctuation of the English language and it s history, and if quirky knowledge is your thing, you should definitely read this one


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