Y’all. I am here to tell you that Watson is a goddess and you should definitely read Semicolon. Yes, even you in the back who don’t care about grammar. And you over there who only read fiction. Even y’all.
Why? Let’s start with 11th grade. I had to read Elements of Style. It was helpful, but beyond the basics nothing was particularly impactful.
Sophomore year of college. I had to read portions of The Copyeditor’s Handbook in class. But there was a hot guy who loved Shakespeare so my attention was split.
Both of these instances supported something I knew, grammar is important. Reading something like Plascencia’s People of Paper or Danielewski’s House of Leaves can be obvious examples of the importance of grammar in story telling.
But it was not until Semicolon that I actually cared about punctuation beyond ‘following the rules.’ Because this isn’t a rule book; it isn’t a collection of do’s, don’ts, and exceptions. It’s history and context and real life impact.
It is evidence that syntax and style can be as much a part of the writing as the actual words. Which, again, I knew, but I didn’t appreciate what that really meant.
In Semicolon, Watson gives us the history of the ‘misunderstood mark’ and it’s reception in writing. She gave us examples of it’s use in writing, shout out to Melville, but also how it was used in other areas like law making and court sentencing. Which was honestly pretty crazy to read about.
But the best parts of Semicolon, were the bits of social commentary.
Watson talks about grammar snobs, the fickleness of literary fads, and about how there weren’t ever really ‘the good old days’ when people knew how to use grammar ‘properly.’
Any my very favorite part, what it means to love style.
We want our words to have an impact. We want our boss to implement that great new idea, we want our texts to inspire love and our tweets to get laughs, we want the eulogy to do justice, we want to sound breezy and cool in that social media profile, we want the A on the paper, we want to persuade and to be understood.Semicolon Savants, pg. 102
Also the book is easy to read, has some cool illustrations, and lots of snarky footnotes. So please read and join me in celebrating a small piece of punctuation.