The Semicolon, Another Grammar Guidepost by Erika Raskin

Couch on the side of the road
the last rest stop by Whatknot ( CC license.

A while ago I went with one of my nieces to get matching semicolon tattoos. This was remarkable for a variety of reasons:

1. I was 56.

2. Years before, when my eldest daughter came home from college sporting her first permanent ink, I may not have reacted well.

Stools in shape of semicolon
Semi-colon by switthoft ( CC license.

3. Trends in general have always bugged me. A lot. Our landfills are filled with them. So are our photo albums.

4. In terms of the grammar symbol itself, I never really got semicolons. Half comma, half period—what is that about? (Kurt Vonnegut rudely referred to them as hermaphrodites.)

So when I noticed that the semicolon had jumped out of sentences and onto body parts, I wanted to find out why.

I learned that these grammar tattoos not only join thoughts, they are reminders to take a breath but to keep going. Even when it would be easier to just come to a full halt. (See last week’s post about periods.) 

After my research, I felt a surprising tug.

Whether it’s recovery, or going back to school or continuing to work on a book until it is FINALLY accepted by a publisher (for instance 🙂 ); the semicolon symbolizes perseverance — with rest stops thrown in for water, encouragement and maybe some Doritos.

Don’t give up.




Shadow of person on bicycle
rest stop before dropping in by cyclotourist ( CC license.


Erika Raskin
Erika Raskin is Streetlight‘s Fiction Editor. Her recent novel, Best Intentions, is a medical thriller and a finalist for the 2018 Library of Virginia’s People’s Choice Award. Her first book, Close, was about family therapy. On TV. Follow her at

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