The Elusive Semicolon

Of all the various punctuation marks, the semicolon is the most elusive. One instinctively knows when to use the period. One has no doubts what to use when one is terribly excited! When seriously in doubt, does one hesitate to ask a question? But whenever one strings multiple things together, the comma often seems to do the job, leaving the semicolon aside. Largely unused, often ignored, the semicolon has an identity crisis and is in danger of becoming extinct.

The comma meanwhile, evolves in its dominance, conquering everything in its path, threatening to  obliterate the semicolon out of existence.

But, the semicolon continues to survive a fragile existence. When a thought process begins from a certain idea A as the start, goes through an intermediary step B, leads to a conclusion C, the comma does the job in giving your reader the necessary pause to follow you. But a theorem is always followed by its corollary; that’s when the semicolon comes into the picture.

The comma leads the reader to take the next step, the semicolon is where you let the reader take a breath and then take the next step. You do not let him stop; doing so necessitates a period.

The comma, though dominant, is often dependent. It needs conjunctions, whether they are are, and, but, or or; the semicolon, on the other hand, is independent. The growing dominance of the comma perhaps tells us how we prefer the props of conjunctions to propel the reader breathlessly forward; while the semicolon becomes an elusive figure languishing in academic obscurity.

The comma with its conjunctions is banal; the semicolon irreplaceable. Substitute a semicolon with a comma and a conjunction and the sentence becomes insipid; divorce the two clauses with a period and the idea loses its integral character.

The semicolon is a bond like no other. It does not divide and conquer like the period, nor does it meaninglessly try to assimilate asymmetry via conjunctions. The semicolon respects individuality; it merely seeks to connect. It is the elusive glue that bonds ideas like friends.

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