Semicolons: hero or zero?

It’s time for a showdown on the semicolon.

In the blue corner, we have those who see semicolons as the devil’s work: indecisive and pretentious, according to Guy Bergstrom.

In the red corner, many others hail them as the shining star of punctuation. Bristol University describes a situation that only the ‘mighty semicolon’ can unravel, and says it allows you to express yourself with ‘more subtlety and precision than ever before.’

Where do I stand?

Checking, back I realise this is the 61st post I’ve written for this blog, and the grand total of semicolons I’ve used so far has reached the heady total of… none at all. Zero. Nada.

That says it all. Semicolons look fancy, but if even a few readers are going to get confused by them, then you should find a way to write your sentence without resorting to their use. That holds double if any of your readers don’t have English as their first language.

I’ve got nothing against semicolons in principle, but almost always I’d argue against using them on grounds of clarity.

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