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What Goes UP Must Come Down

Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop, the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming you have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three dots ... you stop.

Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

I have to say, that is by far the longest sentence I have ever read. Though that may not have been the most informative sentence in the reading, it was definitely the most illustrative. This is a perfect example of using punctuation--or lack thereof--for stylistic purposes.

I have to agree with the author that semicolons are more practical than commas at times--whether it is because the rules say so or not. I will admit, however, that I generally steer clear of the semicolon. I tend to favor elipses and hyphens. I guess this is because I've never fully been sure when it was correct to use semicolons.


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Comments (2)

Oh, Jennifer, how could you not love the semicolon? It lets you have grammatically correct run-on sentences; you are able to join sentences that could be only mildly connected to each other in thought and have a ball; it's so much fun; you don't have to put a period; it's never-ending; whee; I love them; I can't get enough of them; I want more semicolons. See how you can get hooked on them? But I think you're all right as long as you just stay subtle in using them. Where hyphens give you a more specific expectation of what you're going to address next--like this--and ellipses seem to sort of give you a longer, more thoughtful pause...yeah, I think semicolons strike just the right balance between the expectation of something related to the previous phrase without slowing the sentence down too much. Oh my gosh, I love playing with punctuation!

I don't have anything against semicolons; I just generally choose not to use them. As with everything, though, there are exceptions (as seen above). I can see your point. In a given situation it could be fun. I just haven't come across that situation yet.

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