Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Napoleonic Semicolon

I love the semicolon. So of course I'm a fan of The Semicolon's Dream Journal. (In fact, I want him to write an entry based on this post.*)

And a recent article in The Guardian had an explanation of the death of the semicolon.

I've been traveling back in time by immersing myself in Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series. A fantasy mixed with a military history, the three novels written so far postulate what would happen if dragons were part of the world in the Napoleonic Era--the "air force" of their respective countries.

Novik does a wonderful job of creating a syntax and grammar choice that feels authentic. Lord alone knows if it is; Novik was an English lit. major, and has clearly done her homework on the period, but I don't know if her sentence structure and word choices are true to the writing of the period. But if they are not authentic, they are certainly effective.

Word order is part of it. But punctuation probably has a bigger effect. And is more pervasive.

I realized yesterday, and verified yesterday and today, that she places a semicolon in 4 out of every 5 paragraphs. For every 2 paragraphs with NO semicolon, there's a single graph with TWO.

*I dreamed I traveled with Naomi Novik to a dragon covert outside Dover, and made my leg to Temeraire; his captain, Will Laurence, greeted me most warmly. The great black dragon engaged me on the topic of literacy; though he does not read, he enjoys books immensely, and has his captain read to him of a night.

1 comment:

TootsNYC said...

Wow, oh wow, Craig Conley, chronicler of the Semicolon's dreams, spotted this post!