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Get to Know Your Punctuation

“The semi-colon is a funny fellow,” writes Tom Hogkinson in his review of Claire Cock-Starkey’s forthcoming Hyphens and Hashtags: The Stories Behind the Symbols on our Keyboards. “It was invented by a Venetian printer called Aldus Manutius in 1494 for editions of Dante and Erasmus. He adapted it from a bit of musical notation called the punctus versus, and it was Ben Jonson who really made sure it stuck by including it in his 1640 style guide, The English Grammar. In the 18th and 19th centuries writers went mad for it and in 1837 two rival French legal experts fought a duel over its use: one favoured the semi-colon to end a certain passage, the other a colon. The semicolon supporter was wounded in the arm by the apologist for the colon. Today I still find it an impressive piece of punctuation and young people would be well advised to use it in emails in order to impress their bosses.”

I’m not sure what I could possibly add to that, other than that I’m totally behind settling grammar arguments with pistols, and yes, you should definitely use the semicolon more often.



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