I Have a Semicolon and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

Everything in moderation, including moderation.” ~ Julia Childs

My transition from technical writing to fiction presented obstacles. During my technical writing tenure, I mastered the use of a semicolon.

Learning its existence in school and typing it on the keyboard lack the satisfaction of knowing and mastering the using.

In previous posts, I mentioned a book proposal I’m massaging to completion. It’s nonfiction. Not my first love. My first love remains fiction. Writing it. Reading it. Loosing myself in it.

After several failed attempts to get my fiction traditionally published. I pursued the book doctor path.

While my voice remained in tact, passive voice was nixed. The rear view mirror reflected the last of the back story info dumps. And for God’s sake, semicolons have no place in fiction.

My stomach splashed landed near my knees. Not my beloved semicolon.

I felt like I threw away a memorable pair of black stilettos only to be replaced with beige flats. Safer but not nearly as fun.

My fiction ventured beyond third base. Holding hands with it now would never feel the same.

So much for my virginity.

My siblings know I’m pursing publication. They send me regular doses of encouragement.

Before Christmas, one of my sibling’s co-workers self-published a Christmas novella. I’m a Christmas junkie. The Christmas junkie received a personally autographed copy.

I added it to the stack on my nightstand.

Last Saturday black clouds sauntered in from the south. They disgorged two-inches of rain. What better time to read a quick novella?

When I read a book, I read every page of the book—including the title page, the ISBN number, the acknowledgments, even the type font used in the book.

I read the blurbs on the back jacket first. No blurb about the story, not even a log line.

Praise for the work filled the back jacket. The first contributor, a retired English teacher.  The next credited blurb said, “Friend”. The third, the editor of the vanity press. The final blurb came from a former syndicated columnist, who is also a family member. Uh Oh.

If I’m going to improve my own work, I need to read the craft’s beginners as well as the craft’s masters.

This Christmas tale set the story in the 1850’s. The first three paragraphs of the book—the most grammatically correct sentences I’ve ever read.

The first paragraph spanned the length of the first page. It contained six of my beloved semicolons. The opening line of the story, ahead of the first semicolon, a play on Bulwer-Lytton’s, “It was a dark and stormy night,” only “It was daytime and beautiful”.

My inner editor went berserk.

I slogged to page five. Admired the grammar. Lost interest in the story. I wanted to know what made the story derail. I pulled out my red pen with the passion of Captain Ahab for the white whale.

My better half thought I derailed the crazy train.

Learning feels beautiful. Understanding feels powerful.

Sometimes I don’t take the time to thank those who have taught me the most.

If I ever meet the author, I will thank him for his lessons in craft. And I promise to be genuine and courteous and kind. And thank my sister for the unintended benefit of her gift. And thank the book doctor for widening my eyes.

Because I have a semicolon, and I’m not afraid to use it—in moderation. But not in fiction.

A world without stillettos; a world with lower insurance premiums.

A world without stilettos; a world with lower insurance premiums.

Until next week.




About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
This entry was posted in Humor and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to I Have a Semicolon and I’m Not Afraid to Use It

  1. Vikki says:

    This was FANTASTIC !!
    I love your insight and your honesty. Thanks Tracy!


  2. Liz says:

    big fan of the semi-colon. Might even be my favorite punctuation mark. (OK, it is.) It’s especially handy in recipes 🙂 I’d never given thought to not using it in fiction. Not sure why it wouldn’t work, but you’re working with the experts. I’ve heard repeatedly that good writers are good readers, which makes sense. Those that go for published works are the brave ones!


    • I knew you were a kindred spirit in the punctuation world Liz. I found it interesting when the book doc told me they created a speed bump in the story for the reader.

      I agree, those that get published are the brave ones.


  3. kerbey says:

    What?! I use semi-colons all the time! I heart semi-colons. Oh, and Christmas junkie, I was at HobLob (what we call Hobby Lobby) today and I bought a Christmas scrapbook. My son said I was 3 months late, or 9 months early, but I said, “Son, it’s always Christmas to me.” I don’t care if I put Halloween pics in it; it’s covered with Christmas doodads and I love it.


  4. markbialczak says:

    I don’t use semi-colons, Fannie. (Uh-oh, Liz.) They get in the way of my clear thinking and quick communicating. Of course, that’s just me.

    I love your post today. Your passion for getting published and growth in your skills is admirable. Bravo, my friend. I think you are on your way.


  5. Ann Koplow says:

    I started out as a technical writer, in the 1970’s; however, I still love semi-colons (and this post).


  6. Dave says:

    Cool drawing! I didn’t know you were an artiste!


  7. Pingback: What Do You Do With a Fourth Blogiversary? | Fannie Cranium's

  8. Pingback: What Do You Do with a Fifth Blogiversary? | Fannie Cranium's

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.