Sunday, 6 April 2008

Word of the day

Today's word is point-virgule - OK, its really semicolon, but in deference to the efforts of the French to defend it, we have used their word. The Australian reported on April 4 on a campaign to save the semicolon from extinction "because the media, authors and the French people no longer understand its use." An April Fool's Day joke reported that President Nicolas Sarkozy had created a government commission to save the semicolon, and that in future the mark would have to be used at least three times in all official correspondence. The joke appeared on the French news website Rue89. According to the reporter for Rue89, the President had entrusted a government MP, Benoist Apparu, with the task of saving the point-virgule; the plight of the semicolon was attributed to the spread in France of English styles and habits of expression.

You can read all about the semicolon, as always, in the Wikipedia. For those inclined to use longer sentences, the semicolon is indispensable. For others, essential.

The hidden issue is, of course, how to spell semicolon. I have adopted the style used by The Australian, but of course the hyphenated form semi-colon is also possible in English, as in French.

2 comments:

Bec said...
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Bec said...

As one inclined to use longer sentences, I choked on an earlier suggestion that we should do away with semicolons because no-one knows how to use them. How about we just teach people how to use them properly? I always think the correct use of a semicolon sets the professional writer apart from the hack.

From memory, there's an excellent explanation of correct semicolon usage in the Australian Government's Style manual for authors, editors and printers. For those not prepared to wade through that excellent tome, here's a pretty good overview.

I'm glad you seem to disagree with the French on this, Derek!