Dear Semicolon Abusers,

You make the Grammar Nazi in me appreciate comma splices. Semicolons are the equivalent of makeup for sentences. A semicolon is an important trick, and the magician does not carelessly pull the rabbit from his hat. He waits for the right moment.

The right moment includes dim lighting and sultry R&B. Yes, sentences have sex. Think about it: Humans copulate. Monkeys copulate. Rabbits copulate. Why? Because sex feels great. Sentences should be allowed to feel great, too. Sex denotes an intimate connection between two things, and I think it would be discriminatory to care whether those two things be people, animals, or a couple of hormonal independent clauses.

Semicolons are the seminal instigators of sentence sex. Periods, commas, and other punctuation marks have their merits, but semicolons bring words together like only a proverbial tadpole with a little round head and a squiggly tail can.

Provided you gain consent (clear as daylight consent), you can have sex with anyone you want. Likewise, any two adjacent independent clauses may be joined by a semicolon, but, as the advice you can’t recall when you wear beer goggles goes, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Some nights you need sex with no strings attached, so you text your booty call that all-too-romantic-two-in-the-morning “Sup?” The sex might be great. It might be the best sex you’ve ever had, but there’s no romance involved, so the bond you form can only extend so far. Sentences cannot afford to be casual. Sentence sex must be true love consummated every single time.

“Closely connected” sentences—akin to friends with benefits—are the number one instigators of casual sentence sex. Just because good things seem to go together doesn’t mean that two good sentences should be together. Sentence sex is selective to the highest degree and does not settle for good, or worth getting to know, or sort of an asshole who you know you can change. When in doubt, remember that periods have been preventing fallacious sex since time immemorial.

Let’s pause and digest for a moment. Not a quick comma pause or a full-stop period pause, but a moderate semicolon pause. The kind of pause that says you’re getting lucky tonight if you can pretend to watch a movie for like fifteen freaking minutes.

Some sentences develop a union through simple coordinating conjunctions, but the truly special couples need only themselves, with no ifs, ands, or buts to tie the knot.

How do you know if what you see is true love?

Two normal sentences. The sentences are next to each other. Use a period.

“Oh, but the structure of my sentence won’t work without a semicolon.” If you’re using fancy punctuation to compensate for laziness, incompetency, or pretentiousness, think a little harder and restructure the sentence. You never have to force sentence sex. If two independent clauses can’t take their carnal little morphemes off of each other you will know.

Don’t dry hump your sentences, by which I mean don’t force your independent clauses into teases they don’t want. As much as semicolons link clauses, the semicolon is a grammatical call for attention akin to how a dash can be used as a loud comma, an exclamation point as a screaming period, and italics may act as the breakdancers of any font style. Shy away from calls for attention. Boys ignore the prude girl just as much as the townspeople scoff at the semicolon that cries wolf.

Are your independent clauses closely related and deserve equal positioning? Do your clauses attain equal rank through the use of a semicolon, as now they’re not one sentence before the other, but the same sentence? No! One clause still comes before the other. Think of this situation as you would about having to choose between sleeping with Hottie A or Hottie B. If you’ve got good game, you can sleep with both, but not at the same time (bear with me for the sake of the metaphor), so when push comes to shove, you have to choose who comes first.

Of course, even sentence sex has its exception to the rule, as not every sexual experience will be making love to someone you really care about. Sometimes you just need good sex, and that’s fine, so long as you follow proper hook-up protocol.

The exception to sentence sex is lists with so many commas that semicolons must insert themselves to make the reading experience easier, such as the lists of the names, locations, dates, and descriptions of your promiscuity. Punctuation exists to make reading as smooth as sex is bumpy.

The use of a semicolon can be summarized as follows: No one needs sex, but we all want it, and you don’t force it because that’s a crime. Stop abusing semicolons. The only thing more nagging than a Grammar Nazi is a sentence that misses its period.

As You Were,
Alex Rosenfeld