Semi-colonic anguish sounds awful, like a disease … how apt. Does it affect authors?
Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr
A while back, with much excitement, I discovered the semicolon unaware of the adventure ahead. Thus, with a new thingy, I began my journey towards semi-colonic anguish.
Boy, I was going to strut my grammatical stuff, and impress the writing world. Semicolons erupted in my fiction. Imagine, 200,000+ words of prose, punctuated with my newfound favourite.
Semi-colonic anguish and the borders of despair
Picture the emperor’s face when he discovered his new clothes for what they were. Talk about a life changing moment. Of course, it isn’t always something your best friends tell you. Such was the case for me … in the midst of a compliment.
An excellent author and journalist read one of my books. He told me I write well and, as my ego began to howl with delight, added these words:
Lose the semi-colons. Every single one of them. Don’t believe me? Pick up books by guys like Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, John Sandford, John Harvey, Martin Cruz Smith. Read a whole chapter. Count how many semi-colons you encounter. Every single one can be removed and its sentence re-written with little effort, to make sentences that flow better and make a LOT more sense.
Watery eyed, I stared at another revision … like a novice mountaineer standing below the North Face of the Eiger and looking upwards
What did I do?
I took the advice. My Lord, how it hurt, and how worthwhile the pain of sorting my foolishness out. My editor injected a gentle modicum of sanity … my reduction was huge. Removing semicolons was, mostly, a good idea. I recovered from my semi-colonic anguish.
Many writers will be familiar with the joys(?) of revising a book. Of course, semicolons have a place and, doubtless, other writers and readers may have different views. Mine remains more-or-less anti. I don’t regret the work and believe my fiction is the better for it.
© Mac Logan