from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A mark of punctuation ( ; ) used to connect independent clauses and indicating a closer relationship between the clauses than a period does.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The punctuation mark ';' .

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The punctuation mark [;] indicating a separation between parts or members of a sentence more distinct than that marked by a comma.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In grammar and punctuation, the point (;).

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a punctuation mark (`;') used to connect independent clauses; indicates a closer relation than does a period


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • This semicolon is your own, personal Manzikert:; pseudonymous in nc says:

    Matthew Yglesias » Kristol Complicates Napoleon Metaphors

  • The most common way to use a semicolon is to connect two independent clauses.

    PSA: The Semicolon

  • Even the half-stop of a semicolon is too long a pause on the idea that they'll read your submission!

    Cutting Out the However Splice

  • Some people think — or hope — the semicolon is dying off in American prose as well.

    Nate Peikos’s Comics Punctuation

  • As punctuation marks go, the semicolon is much misunderstood.

    How to use a semicolon

  • The semicolon is also used in computer programming code (e.g. is HTML code for a type of space), but in this guise is rarely seen by the non-programming public.

    August « 2008 « Sentence first

  • A semicolon is a tool, and sometimes, it seems to me, it is the only tool for a job; it creates a pause that just feels ... right.

    Archive 2006-09-03

  • "I would like a nickel for every time I left off the semicolon from the end of a programming statement, or forgot to have the proper number of brackets in a set of nested if/then loops."

    The Greats of Spoken Word

  • Let’s concede from the start that everything after the semicolon is correct for the NRCC … as long as we concede that the bit about pressure is true for the DCCC, too.

    The 2009/2010 special elections, to date. | RedState

  • The gross misuse of the semicolon is egregious enough, but the complete lack of coherence of his payoff sentence sends this post into a Rosie’s blog-level of incompetence. its stars like what’s his name ridicule the writers whose arguments he can’t quite grasp.

    Matthew Yglesias » What’s My Name, Fool?


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  • I'd rather flirt with semicolons than tranvestite hermaphrodites; sometimes the minor pause they represent is just what I'm looking for.

    November 18, 2011

  • "They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing."

    - surely this is a reason to use semicolons?

    November 18, 2011

  • Very curious. The semicolon comments have come full circle.

    November 18, 2011

  • “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” — Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country, 2005

    November 18, 2011

  • Maybe you stopped reading before the sentence ended.

    February 26, 2010

  • How is it I've missed this page all this time?

    *gets a vonnegut tat*

    February 24, 2010

  • "Perusing telegraph manuals reveals that Morse code is to the semicolon what weedkiller is to the dandelion. Punctuation was charged at the same rate as words, and their high price—trans-Atlantic cables originally cost a still-shocking $5 per word—meant that short, punchy lines with minimal punctuation were necessary among businessmen and journalists." —Has Modern Life Killed the Semicolon? Slate, 6/20/08

    February 24, 2010

  • The History of the Semi-Colon

    July 31, 2008

  • And now we have The Semicolon Appreciation Society. Gotta get the shirt. :-)

    February 26, 2008

  • Yes, great article. I love the photo of the creative writing MA finally getting acknowledgement for his punctuational flair after 30 years of drudgery in local government.

    February 21, 2008

  • Great article, O! I especially like the correction. :-)

    February 21, 2008

  • A semicolon rides the NY metro.

    February 21, 2008

  • The post below is either a semicolon or a question mark: 'The Latin and the Greek interrogatives appeared at around the same time, the 8th century...; they developed independently, which is why they remain different—as is also the case with the semicolon. The Greek mark has ended up identical in shape to the Latin semicolon; and Unicode has taken the inevitable decision that, since they look identical, they are identical, and the semantics can take care of itself ("If the text is Greek, this is an interrogative..."): U+37E canonically decomposes to U+003B Semicolon, which means that the two are not underlyingly differentiated. It's just as well Greek has never attempted to introduce the Latin semicolon into the language.'

    January 7, 2008

  • ;

    January 5, 2008

  • that's what that word means.

    October 22, 2007

  • What is this "book" thing of which you speak? I like the idea of portable literature, but unless the battery life is good I can't be bothered.

    October 19, 2007

  • Sheets of paper bound together? What? Never heard of it!

    October 19, 2007

  • Precisely. I had a second meaning in mind too: "Made of sheets of paper bound together." :-P

    October 19, 2007

  • Right. That's what I had in mind.

    October 19, 2007

  • I think "conventional" was being used in this page to mean "a book everyone says you have to have read to be culturally literate." It's part of the canon of 20th-century American literature. I don't think anyone was using it (at least here) in the sense of being "humdrum" or "ordinary."

    October 19, 2007

  • Wait, how is Vonnegut "conventional"? Slaughterhouse Five maybe a commonly read book, but it is completely different than anything I've ever read. Cat's Cradle is even stranger, and probably the funniest book I've ever read.

    October 19, 2007

  • We always knew you were a closet intellectual.

    October 19, 2007

  • After how many months, you're beginning to? ;-)

    It's the username, isn't it? Hard to take a guy seriously with a name like uselessness. I like it. Catches people off guard. :-P

    October 19, 2007

  • We can ban uselessness? Actually, lately I'm beginning to appreciate his intelligence through the comments he's been making. He's deeper than I thought.

    October 19, 2007

  • Oh, for crying out loud, uselessness. I put it back. As though I don't have enough editing to do.... ;-)

    October 18, 2007

  • And I still like Vonnegut. Especially his nonfiction, like Fates Worse than Death, and his sort of fiction/nonfiction, like Timequake.

    October 18, 2007

  • Rule #4: Rules 1 through 3 are spot on, and yet... Conventional books are underrated.

    October 18, 2007

  • A clever edit, reesetee, changing the name there, so future generations of Wordies will read this page and think I'm the crazy one...which I am, but that's beside the point.

    October 18, 2007

  • No! Uselessness, I was referring to Vonnegut, not you! Good grief, I just finished telling you how well-read I think you are. I guess I was intending to...well, defend you...and the comment ended up in the wrong place. Fixed now.

    Apologies. *bows head*

    As for banning uselessness, anyone tries that and I think the rest of us would probably go along. :-)

    October 18, 2007

  • Holy crap, you're lucky I wasn't around last night. Few men have said those kinds of things to my face and... um... avoided rumors being spread about their mothers behind their backs.

    Rule #1 of Wordie: Don't ban uselessness.

    Rule #2 of Wordie: Conventional books are overrated.

    Rule #3 of Wordie: You don't have to be as smart as uselessness, if you make up for it with commentiness.

    October 18, 2007

  • Never mind that he doesn't think we're as smart as he is. ;-)

    October 18, 2007

  • Nah. Why bother? There aren't enough semicolons in those books.

    October 18, 2007

  • I propose Uselessness be banned from Wordie until he at least reads Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle. It should only take a couple hours.

    October 18, 2007

  • U, I didn't mean to imply you're less than ... well, that you're anything based solely on the fact that you hadn't heard of Vonnegut, or weren't familiar with his work. I am actually not that familiar with it, even though I've read at least two of his novels--whenever people reference his work, I never know what they're talking about. My surprise was just that you hadn't heard of him before/didn't know he was an author.

    And his stuff is worth reading solely for this gem: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the mooooooon?" (As I said, don't know what it means, but found it amusing when I was 14.)

    P.S. Yarb, you hit the nail on the head! Haha!

    October 18, 2007

  • Right!

    October 17, 2007

  • I've assimilated plenty of information from the internet over the years, which isn't "reading" in the traditional sense, but I think it's had the effect of teaching me a little bit about a lot of different things. I just don't have much experience with literal page-turning. :-)

    October 17, 2007

  • Yarb, you're making me laugh out loud in a very quiet office!

    Funny, uselessness--I've always thought of you as very well-read, not in the "classic literature" sense, but still. :-)

    October 17, 2007

  • So I haven't read his books? I am a terrible person. And I plan to remain one for the foreseeable future. A regular sinner. Sorry, Vonnegut.

    October 17, 2007

  • I like Vonnegut's stories, but sometimes I feel like he's lecturing me. Especially in Breakfast of Champions, it's all "I'm Kurt Vonnegut, and I'm a smart guy who knows what's wrong with the world. Because you're reading my book, you must be a smart guy, too, although obviously not as smart as me. But all those other people who don't read my books, they're the problem. Not only are they not as smart as me and you, but because they're not reading my books they're not going to get any smarter. And those people are what my books are about."

    Slaughterhouse Five is a great novel, though.

    October 17, 2007

  • I am surprisingly, um, whatever the opposite of well-read is. Poorly read. But I'm working on it, slowly but surely.

    October 17, 2007

  • But you're ever so well-versed in other areas, uselessness. :-)

    Anyway, I never cared for Vonnegut myself.

    October 17, 2007

  • Oh yes, my lack of culture rears its head. So I looked him up. Slaughterhouse Five guy. Got it. It's one of those books everybody's supposed to have read, but I never have. Am I still welcome on your literary web site?

    October 17, 2007

  • Never heard of ...? Uselessness... really? *does not compute*

    October 17, 2007

  • Never heard of Vonnegut... but I too love semicolons -- problem is, I have the bad habit of using too many of them, along with ellipses and dashes; I've wrestled with all three for years.

    October 17, 2007

  • Yep. Bless him.

    October 17, 2007

  • I love them, too; Vonnegut be damned.

    October 17, 2007

  • Kurt Vonnegut said he hated them; I love them. Most of the time.

    October 17, 2007