Article Analysis Essay on The Enigmatic Semicolon by Janet Byron Anderson

Published: 2021-06-29
545 words
2 pages
5 min to read
Wesleyan University
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The article highlights the use of a semi-colon. It is likened to the mermaid myth, where a mermaid, a sensuous woman above and a muscular fish below is capable of luring sailors to their death because human is mainly fascinated by beasts. As Anderson (2008) highlights, the semicolon is viewed with significant suspicion by many individuals, even by well-known writers. For example, George Orwell avoided semi-colons because they are unnecessary stops, and he would rather write a book without a single semi-colon. In addition, as Anderson (2008) points out that, Rene Cappon, a renowned punctuation writer clarified that good stylists always try to avoid using the semi-colon because it is too formal and it would be appropriate keeping them at a minimum in any piece of writing because there are usually options. Besides, a semi-colon is harder to teach in a class scenario and Edgar Schuster, an English teacher, stressed that it is useless.

However, the punctuation is also preferred by the learned, and its admirers associate it with the elite. For example, Lynne Truss, a British Journalist praises the semi-colon as a mark of sophistication. Even so, it presents a myriad of pitfalls to both writers and readers. Since it joins two or more clauses, it becomes harder for readers to untangle the relationships in the clauses, and it usually does not impress alert readers. As such, the clauses could be broken down into simpler sentences that are more understandable, making the semi-colon redundant and expendable. As Noah Lukeman asserts, it is an unnecessary punctuation mark and a luxury item I store, and thus, we should ask ourselves: why use it at all? (Anderson, 2008).

The semicolon also lacks existential value because there are no rules governing its usage solely depends on subjective considerations. Even though it is expressive of clauses that are close, close is not an absolute category because it is relative, thereby open to variant interpretations. It is for this reason that commas are preferred to join two clauses that are short. However, the semi-colon is also important because it helps readers to easily identify connections compared to a style where no semi-colons are used, which leaves the readers group the associations together. In essence, as Anderson (2008) points out, the semi-colon can be used in exposition to join a variety of relationships, including contrast and coordination, inference, emphasis, cause, inference, as well as effect.

For this reason, as highlighted by Anderson (2008), our age is impatient with reading long documents, and despite our admiration or distaste towards the semi-colon, changes in reading and writing habits make the use of the semi-colon decline in default. It is better to use commas primarily because semi-colons express complex relationships, and thus, this provides evidence of lack of its real functionality. Times have changed, and its obligatory uses have significantly reduced. People prefer reading shorter sentences and commas mostly used. Still, semi-colons have to be used in technical mathematics, law, genetics, chemistry, lexicography, programming, as well as a bibliography. Outside these uses, semi-colons are sparingly used, and because of the cultural shifts, the mermaids watery abode is evaporating. In the future, she will have to learn to survive in shallower waters (Anderson, 2008).



Anderson, J.B. (2008). The Enigmatic Semicolon. Retrieved from


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