Saturday, April 05, 2008

Lewis Thomas on the Semicolon


Lewis Thomas on the semicolon:

I have grown fond of semicolons in recent years. The semicolon tells you that there is still some question about the preceding full sentence; something needs to be added; it reminds you sometimes of the Greek usage. It is almost always a greater pleasure to come across a semicolon than a period. The period tells you that that is that; if you didn't get all the meaning you wanted or expected, anyway you got all the writer intended to parcel out and now you have to move along. But with a semicolon there you get a pleasant little feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.

From Lewis Thomas, "Notes on Punctuation" in The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher (1979).

5 comments:

LK said...

I've always been fond of the semi-colon; I hope it makes a comeback.

bibliophylia said...

My fondness for the semicolon has increased in recent years. Fun post!

Chris & Jane said...

I really enjoyed this post about the semicolon. Thanks!

JCR said...

There was an interview with Kurt Vonnegut on "What Do You Know?" with Michael Feldman in which Vonnegut explained the only reason behind going to graduate school in English is to learn to use the semi-colon... ah, I wish I had a postcast of that episode...

Adfero Affero said...

The French call it the point vergule, which has a certain Je ne sais quoi. I have a fondness for the colon. Sartre in English (can one be sure whether the punctuation translates?) such as in his autobiography Words and in his novel Nausea, is full of both.