Should we use semicolons?

There is widespread debate whether or not the semicolon should be used. Some writers, like Noah Lukeman, believe it to be “the most elegant of all forms of punctuation.”

Should we be taking the axe to the semicolon?

Writer Kurt Vonnegut disagrees, saying, “Do not use semicolons…. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Thus begs the question, should semicolons be used in journalism?  No, the writers quoted above are not journalists, but they are esteemed authors.

In journalism, sentences should generally be kept short with a few longer ones sprinkled in to avoid monotony. The semicolon tends to promote longer sentences. The exception to this is its use in separating items in a complex list.

This is not to say the semicolon goes against journalistic ideals. Rather, it can be used for more reasons than looking fancy and making sentences longer. It can be used to create a sense of balance or tension, which could potentially add appeal to your story.

Outside of its use in complex lists, do you believe the semicolon should be avoided in journalism or can it be a vital tool in a writer’s arsenal?

Read more at Suite101: Is the Semicolon Necessary?: Punctuation in the Digital Age

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