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Real Men Don't Use Semi-colons

Thenewwoman As a writer and reader, I adore the elegance and subtlety of the semi-colon; as an editor, the  proper use of semi-colons in story submissions definitely scores bonus points with me. But according to James Kilpatrick (quoted recently in The Boston Globe), the semi-colon is "girly," "odious," and "the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented."

Not only is he utterly wrong about this, and not only is it weird to assign a gender to a punctuation mark, I'm also struck by the fact the "odious" nature of the semi-colon, according to Fitzpatrick, seems to derive from this supposed association with women. It makes me bristle when the word "girly" is casually tossed around as a form of abuse, as though being a girl is such a dreadful thing. The Broadsheet column over at Salon.com has a great tongue-in-cheek response to this nonsense.


This smacks of sour grapes to me. The semi-colon refused to yield up her charms to Mr. Fitzpatrick's boorish attentions and he responded with vicious attacks on her character.

Seriously, using "pusillanimous" and "girly" in the same sentence? Geesh.

"Wait. And the period is manly?" *gigglefit!*

Also, Louis Bayard is love.

Err, wow.

I guess we can say in his favor that he certainly doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. Strongly. With chewy adjectives.

I must admit that it has been many a year since I have learned the proper use of the semicolon. I cannot say that I haven't used one now and then, but I doubt I have used it correctly!!!

I don't quite understand the 'girly' reference. I can see why you would be frustrated by it. It is odd to me that men in general would use words like 'girly' as a slanderous description when by and large we worship the ground women walk on and hold them up as the highest form of beauty and grace. Very odd. I guess our language is still very much in the dark ages and hasn't caught up with the ever-so-slight improvement the species has made towards recognizing women as equals.

As a man, I can't help but be deeply, deeply embarrassed by dorks like him. I also find them utterly mystifying, simply because they can't seem to speak or write about anything without their penis being involved.

I bet I can tell what his beef is, though: he likes hard stops. Hard stops are manly. Hard stops create isolated sentences that have to stand on their own like real men! Semi-colons, on the other hand, connect sentences, hint that they support each other. They imply...relation shudder shudder gasp gasp. How unmanly can you get?

Gah. I use semicolons, and this guy just made me very happy that I do.

Hey Terri,
I thought you might enjoy this:

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