A Vonnegutian Analysis of Punctuation

This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Post on Punctuation/Grammar (Part 2 is still in the drafting process).

I was exposed to Vonnegut at the ripe age of 12. It was an enlightening experience that has left me with a casual distaste for just about everything. Now whenever life gets a little too complicated I am forced to ask myself WWMHBKVJD (what would my home-boy Kurt Vonnegut Junior do). When considering the case of one specific piece of punctuation, Kurt made his feelings clear.

“Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Although Vonnegut’s word choice is less than ideal, he brings up a good point. The semicolon is the most pretentious piece of punctuation that has ever been created — the em-dash is a close second. The semicolon is basically a comma with a hat; it is basically the bastard child of two other pieces of punctuation that thinks it has a place in the royal blood line. Even the Wikipedia page for the punctuation mark seems confused as to the slurry of situations in which a semicolon may or may not be used.

Monocle’s are as pretentious as it gets.

In extending this line of reasoning, it becomes clear that Vonnegut would hate the following pieces of punctuation and symbols:

  • The ellipsis!
  • The colon
  • The slash
  • The ampersand
  • The bullet & the ditto mark
  • The pound/number sign
  • The pilcrow…and the apostrophe

All these symbols are pretentious, and it is inexcusable to use them in writing.

It’s true, and if you don’t believe it then you are wrong.

The only piece of punctuation that is acceptable is the period. Its use is clear, and it stays true to itself. It is absolute, and more importantly it can’t be found wearing a monocle.

It’s time to go home semicolon, nobody likes you.

semicolon rant


2 thoughts to “A Vonnegutian Analysis of Punctuation”

  1. Pat – I found this post very interesting because I love semicolons for the same reason you hate them. Not sure why but I love that semicolons are, for lack of a better word, elitist. Anyways, I like the visual appearance of this blog post. The oversized quote and the photos placed in the middle of your writing both break up the piece at the right times. I hope to see a few semicolons and other punctuation in your work; I will be on the look-out.

  2. Pat— solid post, I love Vonnegut as well and can easily relate to the humor you use here. I would be interested to go back and check to see just how genuine Kurt is, and makes sure the semi colon never appears in his work. While initially I just thought it was funny that you find all these symbols pretentious, you’ve now inspired me to do some critical thinking about whether this is true or not.

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