Someone had to do it, and as the “father of modern punctuation,” the Italian printer Aldus Manutius the Elder delivered the semicolon. On the right-brain side of the ledger, ol’ Aldus is also credited with inventing the italics typeface. For the record, he’s not responsible for semicolon use as a wink. 😉 Here’s a good description of its use.
My issue with the semicolon is its overuse “separating closely related independent clauses,” or “dealing with two sentences that can’t keep their hands off each other.”1. An old acquaintance used to pepper sentences with semicolons, and too much pepper overwhelms the senses, distorting the flavor of the dish. Robin L. Simmons writes, “Semicolons are like glasses of champagne; save them for special occasions.”
I agree. Semicolon use is considered by some a sign of educational achievement, at least in grammar, while others read snobbery. Overuse creates imagery of the author leaning out over the Empire State’s edge screaming, “I AM SMART!!! I USE THE SEMICOLOOOOONNNN!!!” Well, overreaching on analogy isn’t good either. To put a succinct point on it, the semicolon lacks the closure of a period. In most of the independent clause scenarios a comma gets the job done, while a period may simply end the confusion.
“When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life. Old age is more like a semicolon.” – Kurt Vonnegut