1 minute reading time (189 words)

In defence of the semicolon

In defence of the semicolon

This piece on the ; in ​The Millions​ magazine, is lovely. 

Stylistically, the latter half of the 20th century (and the 21st) has seen a general shift toward shorter sentences. This seems understandable on two fronts. First—and this is total conjecture—MFA writing programs came to the cultural fore in the 1970s and over the last few decades have exerted an increasing influence on literary culture. I am far from an MFA hater, but the workshop method does often tend to privilege an economy of storytelling and prose, and whether the relationship is causal or merely correlational, over the last few decades a smooth, professionalized, and unextravagant style has been elevated to a kind of unconscious ideal. This style is reflexively praised by critics: "taut, spare prose" is practically a cliche unto itself. Additionally, personal communication through the 20th century to today has been marked by increasing brevity. Emails supplant letters, texts supplant emails, and emojis supplant texts. It stands to reason that literary writing style and the grammar it favors would, to a degree, reflect modes of popular, nonliterary writing.

Adam O'Fallon Price
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