Ode to a semicolon


Yeah, yeah, it’s not Ode to a Grecian Urn or Ode to Joy, but really, what do you expect? I’m waxing philosophical (ish) about a punctuation mark, for pete’s sake. And because I don’t do poetry, you’ll just have to settle for an homage to the semicolon written in prose. Sorry. The title is about as close to the romantic poets (oh, and how I love those romantic poets) as you’re going to get. I’m not that awesome.

I love the semicolon.

Actually, I really do love the semicolon.

I can’t explain my affection for one small punctuation mark–all I know is that I have loved the semicolon since high school. It makes sentences beautiful, longer, fuller. I think, more exciting.

Sadly, people don’t seem to agree with me.

It’s like my love of the prologue. I LOVE prologues. Something about them sucks me in, gives me a little more information. A taste for what comes later, if you will. I like reading them, and I enjoy writing them, and then I went to a conference where the first words out of the speaker’s mouth–I kid you not–were, “Prologues are for the weak writer who isn’t skilled enough to show that same information later in the story.”

What?! And oh, OW!

I guess I can see her point. And then she went on to berate my friend, the semicolon, saying, “It just makes for run on sentences. Just get it out. Use a period.”

But I like long sentences. I don’t necessarily want to read a story that’s all periods and commas. I love the dash, the colon, the semicolon. Sure, I don’t want to write like Tolstoy (no offense to Tolstoy, whom I love, but he’s just not a read I’d take to the beach… not that this desert-dwelling super-white girl ever makes it to the beach), but I don’t want to write like I’m talking in motherese, either. (“Oh, what a cute book you are! A cute, big book too!”)

In truth, I have learned that all of my favorite things to use in writing (semicolons, prologues, adverbs) are frowned upon, and, the more I espouse the merits of such, the more it sounds like a justification for why I write run-ons and resort to the hallmarks of a weak writer. It’s sad to say it probably is. Maybe I’m a hack. Maybe I should pack up my toys and go home. After all, I make a terrific speech pathologist.

No way.

Every time I get hit with a proverbial smack down, something else comes up that serves to reinvigorate me. Sure, I’m adverby and my sentences are too long, but I can still final in contests. Haven’t published anything yet (except for my master’s thesis, and I’m not sure that counts–but it was a rock solid thesis, if I do say so myself. I still can’t believe I wrote it), but that doesn’t mean I won’t. I’m new at this. I only decided I would write a novel exactly fourteen months ago. In the mean time, I have finished two, and I’m nearly done with number three. Two of them have finaled in contests, and one I never submitted to anything. 

So, my friend the semicolon, I am off to take you out of Revision V of my draft before I send it off. Prologue, because I can’t bear to take you out completely, you will merely be hacked down… Four pages, max. Oh, and I need to fix J. Edgar, because he still sucks. But maybe, just maybe, if I can make the J. Edgar better, cut down on my use of semicolons, and hack down my prologue from 6 1/4 pages to a mere four, maybe I can get myself published. And we can be friends once again.

MCC

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