Someone has to stick up for them, surely ...

Something a little different from Miss: one of my favourite rants, in verse form. I wrote this as a performance piece. Pedants, enjoy!

Keep the Colon

I’m not the kind of person who just eats and shoots and leaves
But I am the kind of person who passionately believes
That however Gordon tries to get the country back on track,
He may as well give up unless he brings the colon back.

The colon is neglected, the colon is unused.
It’s the punctuation mark that gets continually abused.
It’s put where it’s not needed and it’s left out where it’s vital.
It’s just as if our country views the colon now with spite – ll.

There’s a big gap in our culture where the colon did exist.
It used to be real handy at the start of any list.
‘Four things annoy me greatly: one armpit’s worth of roll-on,
The price of tuna, Simon Cowell and the misuse of the colon.’

It was the standard precedent for any explanation
Like this one. Colons in their place: a cause for celebration.
And anyone worth quoting got a colon as precursor;
Now they don’t get nothing. People’s grammar’s getting worser.

And any statement got one which was somewhat antithetical:
‘You think colons are superfluous: I think that is pathetical.’
A title and subtitle were divided in this way:
‘The Colon: Why Society has Broken Down Today.’

If they’d come up with a suitable alternative, well, great
But they haven’t, and – well – dash it all – it’s one I really hate.
In lists, in titles, everywhere a colon should have been,
They all dash here, they all dash there, I’m dashed if I’ll join in.

Where colons gave a dignified and gentlemanly pause
The dash just hurries you along from clause to bloody clause.
Where colons would announce a list, so nobly, so polite.
A dash will tell you nuffink. It’s not British. It’s not right.

The colon needs protecting from extinction. Two small dots
May not seem that important, may not seem like a lot.
But poachers armed with dashes are destroying them, like that,
And wrenching them with violence from their natural habitat.

Think of them like baby seals if it helps to sympathise.
Think of the little colon as if it were two pleading eyes
That gaze up from an advert in the paper saying ‘Hey,
Don’t let the punctuation-poachers have their evil way.’

You may ask, ‘What’s the point?’ or more to the point, ‘What’s the point-point?’
You may say you don’t care if the poor colon is purloined-loined.
Well, that’s what’s wrong with Britain, that’s there’s attitudes like yours
That do not understand just how a colon helps a clause.

When Britain starts to crumble, you will have a recollection
That you rejected my appeal to bring back decent clause-connection:
That cohesion of society. Conserve the Colon. The Dash Must Die.
It’s a really Big Big Issue. You can’t just walk on by.

Join my campaign tonight. I’m not asking for your cash.
Your solidarity I need to fight against the dash.
Join the war against this new upstart that’s trying to beat the old one.
Don't let the dash prevail, my friends. Fight on to keep the colon.


  1. Well put. But what about the semicolon, or is that semi-colon? And where does one properly use it?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Douglas, and for looking up my blog. Semicolon/semi-colon: both are acceptable - I think it's one of those words that's in transition so that eventually no one will use the hyphen. As for using them, what I tell my students is that a semicolon should always have a complete sentence either side of it. Here's an example. Semicolons are useful; they help to link two sentences together that are closely connected. After a colon, you don't have to have a complete sentence. An example. I believe that one punctuation mark should be preserved: the colon.
    And now, time for break!

  3. Excellent poem. I use the colon fairly frequently in my writing, but I must say I probably abuse it as much as I do with every other dot dash and squiggle in (or that at one time or another was in) the language!



  4. As long as it's just the colon and not that dratted semicolon; so many people use it so frequently; perhaps one should learn how to use it properly and then one wouldn't use it so badly all the time...

  5. Ah, Spider, the semicolon. Had a discussion about that in a sixth form lesson today. Not a straightforward one, it has to be said.


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