The Stomach Cramp of the Writing Pantry




There is nothing quite as equally distasteful as it is loved like the semicolon. Traditionally, it's used to separate items on a list, to connect two closely related sentences, and, most importantly, to be used fervently by every inexperienced writer there is.


The semicolon reminds me of my first year of university back when I saw God every time I used an adjective in a sentence. Adjectives are such a vivid type of word that using them just screams evocative writing. However, scream "evocative writing" all the time and is it really so outstanding after all? Or, as another and perhaps better example, adjectives could be considered the nutella of the writing pantry. If you keep eating nutella all the time and ignore the rest of the food inside, eventually you're going to get sick, and nutella will lose its special regard.


Like the adjective, the semicolon serves as an element better kept waiting for a special occasion. Except, where adjectives might be thought of as nutella, the semicolon is McDonalds: if you can help it, you really shouldn't be getting involved with it at all.


The goal of good writing is for it to be interesting, but punctuation and grammar will always find a way to be taken advantage of rather than the content of the writing itself. You'll get a frown if you tell a writing friend that her sentence about a woman walking into a room "beautifully" is unnecessary. However, the use of pretty adjectives ruins the moments other tools could have performed more effectively -- like the often abandoned verb. An adjective should be prompted from the reader's mind and not the writer's pen. Much like the use of a semicolon, an adjective often does nothing to enhance the actual story.

Debatably, punctuation should be kept as minimalist as possible in writing. Where you could rephrase a sentence to limit punctuation use, this should be done. Punctuation can have its different intrigues, but there should always be some mindfulness on keeping it clean and tidy. The more punctuation you use, often the more concentration is required by the reader. And the reader shouldn't be left to pick up your mess.

Keep it simple. Keep it balanced. Keep your distance from that damned semicolon.