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  • Writer's pictureMonica Montanari

My Completely Unsolicited Opinion on The Semi-Colon Trend

Let's have a grammar lesson here. Because clearly our entire generation (and those before us) have no idea what this punctuation mark is actually used for.


So there's been a trend associated with mental illness and semi-colons lately. One in which wearing anything with a semicolon on it or getting it tattooed on you symbolizes your survival from a mental illness. And, par usual, it completely misunderstands the reasoning and usage behind semi-colons. Project Semicolon states that their organization is based on the semicolon because it is a mark you use when you 'could have ended a sentence, but chose not to', because 'your story isn't over yet'.

While that's a great symbol of survival and acceptance, there's one thing I can't get behind. By the logic of the Semicolon project; you can just throw a semicolon in a sentence; whenever you feel like it.


Semi-Colon (n.): a punctuation mark (;) indicating a pause, typically between two main clauses, that is more pronounced than that indicated by a comma.

If you never use a period, you're writing what we like to call a run-on sentence. Which is a big no-no. I doubt your whole life story can fit in one sentence unless it's the longest sentence in the history of mankind. Remember when we learned to read, and were told that commas and periods were marks that told us when to pause?

Comma = short pause

Period = long pause

A semicolon is basically in between a comma and a period (hence the shape). *Light bulb moment*

Semicolon = medium pause


In reality, it is a punctuation mark used to connect two independent clauses that make more sense together than apart. Let's look at an example sentence:

"The Semicolon Project has an admirable mission. It would have been nice if they actually looked up the proper use of a semicolon first, though."

Read this out loud to observe your natural use of pauses if you have to. With the use of a period, we understand that the two statements are both independent clauses. Reminder: an independent clause is a sentence that could be by itself and still be grammatically correct.

If I were to read that sentence right now, I'd take a solid pause where the period is. (*breath*) However, I'm the author. I get to decide how I want readers to process my sentences. And since they are closely related and I like to vary my sentence structure, I don't want people to take a big long break in between these two sentences. I just want them to give it a break a bit longer than a comma- but not as long as a period. I want to give my writing a rhythm. Now let's try replacing that first period with a semicolon:

"The Semicolon Project has an admirable mission; it would have been nice if they actually looked up the proper use of a semicolon first, though."

Do you see and hear the difference? Now my words have a rhythm behind them, and I look like I know what I'm doing.


Again, the idea is a great one. It's almost like a secret symbol to survivors- so they can see that other people have been through something similar and they are not alone.

If you already have it tattooed on you or own shirts with it, you're kind of past the point of no return- but like I said, it's still an awesome cause I'd love to get behind. The only reason I haven't embraced it fully is because I can't get over that small (kind of huge) issue. Mental illness being embraced in everyday society would be amazing- and people allowing complete strangers to see their darkest secrets is so brave.

Regardless, I hope we all learned something new today. Now go forth and use the semicolon properly; do not be afraid. Feel free to share with all of the other people you know who are terrified of basic punctuation. It's not as scary as it looks, people.

Need explanations on any other English stuff? I taught college students writing and grammar for four years- let me know what you'd like explained in the comments below, and I'll do my best to de-mystify the world of English for you.


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