LATELY — 13 November 1999

Great Punctuation Marks of North Dakota

Great Punc­tu­a­tion Marks of North Dakota
No. 3: The Semi-Colon

Appearance: The semi-colon is com­posed of two dis­joint shapes: (1) a tapered, backward-curving arc be­gin­ning at the baseline, and ex­tend­ing a short dis­tance below it, and (2) a solid dot sit­u­ated di­rectly above the afore­men­tioned arc. The semi-colon has a highly dis­tinc­tive phys­i­cal form, looking some­thing like a cross between the comma and the colon.

Habitat: Unlike the comma and the period, the semi-colon (like its close rel­a­tive the colon) is rel­a­tively rare and is be­com­ing more so. Though fre­quently sighted in the writ­ings of some authors and poets (notably Shakespeare), in some set­tings the semi-colon is now prac­ti­cally extinct. In the last five years, for example, the semi-colon has been sighted only seven times within Chinese Take-Away menus, and just thir­teen times within Police ac­ci­dent reports.

Diet: The semi-colon is partial to pairs of gram­mat­i­cally com­plete sen­tences that are closely related in sense, but its main love is co­or­di­nate conjunctions. Semi-colons have also been ob­served feeding on el­e­ments of a series, es­pe­cially those re­jected by the comma.

Predators: The semi-colon has no natural predators.