Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy National Punctuation Day!

It's been a while since we've shared any news, but I couldn't let National Punctuation Day go by without wishing you all a happy National Punctuation Day!

This is the 5th annual day celebrating "the lowly comma, correctly used quotes, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever mysterious ellipses."

In the spirit of the day, I'd like to shed light on my favorite controversial punctuation use: the serial semicolon.

I know, semicolons are difficult to use. In fact, I try to avoid using them in almost every circumstance except in this one case.

When creating a serial list in which the items themselves have commas internally, it's sometimes useful to use a semicolon to divide the items of the list. Here's an example from our catalouge that I have to continually defend every year:

"[The Webster's New Explorer Dictionary and Thesaurus] also includes an atlas; foreign phrases; famous names in mythology, the Bible, and history; and a handbook on style and research referencing."

Without this selection using the serial semicolon it's very easy to make the mistake and read that this book includes the entire text of the Bible. I know that to many people it looks awkward, but to me, this is a very appropriate use for the semicolon.

Now, lets see how long it is before someone finds a missing punctuation mark in this post and corrects me. :)