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Punctuation cage match

Herman Melville was for them; Raymond Chandler was against. Donald Barthelme thought they were ugly as a tick on a dog’s belly. His contemporary, Kurt Vonnegut, called them transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. Yet another commentator, grammar enthusiast James Kilpatrick, attacks them as girly, odious, and the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented.

The subject under contention is none other than the lowly semi-colon, which Boston Globe columnist Jan Freeman argues is on the wane in American usage. It’s a useful primer, in the vein of Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves, on this long-simmering culture war.