Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oatmeal for Breakfast

I have a confession to make.

The semicolon scares the crap out of me (with its big scary dot and it ever-precarious comma hanging around on the bottom, mocking me). I never learned to use it properly. I was an honor student in school; we didn't study grammar past the eighth grade. (Did you see that? I used one right there between "school" and "we." Thunder did not rumble. Lightning did not strike. The world still spins.)

I was reading an old interview of Mr London Street. He was asked his opinion on how bloggers could improve their blogging skills; one of his answers was to learn proper use of the semicolon. I couldn't help but to think that is why he stopped following my blog. He simply couldn't drag himself through the muddy swamp of my poor punctuation skills. Woe is me.

I've always been very proud of the fact that I can edit my own writing. I don't need somebody hovering over my shoulder to tell me that "you're" should be spelled "your" or that "effect" and "affect" are two completely different animals. In fact, you could say I've been kinda snooty about the whole thing. After all, only one or two of my real life friends have ever even heard of a semicolon.

This isn't to say that I don't make mistakes all the time. I think every blogger whose blog has been a victim of my comments knows that I get in a hurry and often scrawl crazy things across the screen with no concern for "their" or "there." Just last week on Facebook I misspelled "weird," and it bothered me so much I had to go back and correct it right away! TeenerBeener actually thanked me for the correction.  It put a smile on my face, and from that point on I knew we'd be OCD buddies friends forever.

Today, I stumbled across this Oatmeal Poster displaying the correct use of the semicolon. I'm feeling a lot like Charlie Gordon in Flowers for Algernon.

 “Today, I learned, the comma, this a  
comma (,) a period, with a tail, Miss Kinnian, says 
its important, because, it makes writing, better, 
she said, somebody, could lose, a lot of money, if 
a comma, isnt, in the, right place, I dont have,  
any money, and I dont see, how a comma, keeps  
you, from losing it. 
But she says, everybody, uses commas, so Ill use, 
Them too.
-Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon

I can read; I can write; I can finally use a semicolon.
This does, however, make me very curious about the colon...


  1. OK. I read the whole post and I still don't know when to use it.

    And, I love Mr. London Street, but clearly he does not love me, since he's never followed me. So you're ahead of me there. :)

    For now, I will stick to writing as I talk. Short fragmented sentances, with a large run on in the middle. Ending with something completely insignifigant.

    Because seriously, the semi colon? I still can't even figure out how to use spell check in the comment section.

  2. Gertrude Stein didn't use many semi-colons; neither did James Joyce, I believe. You'll be OK. I like your blog and will keep reading it.

  3. I really enjoyed this post.

    The semi colon; which I've never really understood how to use (was that correct?) is overrated. I suppose the best way maybe to avoid using it?

    I also love the writing of MLS, but he's in a different league to most of us.

    As for the odd error in blog posts; I'm not sure it matters that much. Are we trying to get published, or are we blogging for other reasons? I reckon the best thing to do is enjoy it; have fun and just do your best :)

  4. It's the same with me; I never learnt to use the semi-colon either, and I don't even know how to spell it; semi colon, semi-colon, semicolon? That's probably why the semicolon became my favorite among the punctuation marks. I enjoy exploring it's beauty and mysteries, just like ... you know what I mean >;)

    Cold As Heaven

  5. I use the semicolon, of course, but I'm not sure if I use it right. When it appears, something about it just looks right.

    I hope to be able to purge words half as well as Mister London Street if I grow up...

  6. Julianna- Your posts are so great, entertaining, heartwarming...punctuated or not!

    Joanne-it's so great to see a new face! Enjoy your reading, but fair warning, I can be a little scary sometimes.

    Dicky- good point. I blog to vent, rant, relax and express. No semicolons necessary.

    Cold-I'm pretty sure you used it right, this time. ;)

    Robbie-punctuation by intuition? Hmmm...

  7. hmmm...grammar..the bane and saviour of the language that has become that develops on a daily basis...
    back in the 18th C a group of lexicographers got together and found the language to be such a haphazard mess they decided that little symbols would help us out....and they kinda do...
    hell...i was beaten senseless as a child for incorrect usage of grammatical rules
    it can turn a phrase around completely with the addition of a few tiny little symbols and leave the reader perplexed..
    fr'instance the phrase 'eats shoots and leaves' is a far cry from 'eats, shoots and leaves'...
    the first appearing to be a fluffy jungle animal and the latter appears to be a habit a lot of menfolk do...
    depends on your audience i figger and you know this....with blogging we can take a far more laissez-faire attitude towards it as the word is the word is the word...but with high faluting stuff i figger that the use of internationally accepted norms provides clarity and succinctness in a piece..
    but hey i know that i am preaching to the converted here...
    personally i prefer to steer way the fuck clear of semi-colons and just rant...much like i have just done then...its not is getting a point across
    so there....i forgot what i was saying then

  8. i like using the semi colon to make the little winkie guy. ;)
    one thing i remember learning about the colon (i mean, if you're serious about delving into that next) is that you're supposed to put two spaces after it. also, you can use it to make a little non winkie guy who is either
    :) happy,
    :( sad,
    :/ or slanty mouthed.
    you can even give him a mustache if you learn the proper use of the mustache mark. :{)

  9. Nessa - I must review the law of the semi colon.... I am quite puzzled and I am an ELAR teacher ( however in my class we don't dwell on the semi-colon - not paramount to passing the new STAAR test) I am a firm believer in writing like I talk... and I am a firm believer in reading what you have written - good stuff!!

  10. I seem to have become far too fond of the semi-colon; my writing is spattered with the little winky guy and his brothers...
    Great post.

  11. Dan- did you REALLY for get what you were saying?

    id- is that the official word for it? Mustache mark?

    Maria- I'm so happy you're following me now. And I had to look up what an ELAR teacher is...

    Sharon-I like the winky guy. It's my favorite use of the semicolon. Have you ever heard of a thing called Mustache Mark?