One week ago, a very small fraction of the world paused to celebrate National Semicolon Day. The often-misunderstood mark now has a second meaning.
National Semicolon Day celebrates that curious punctuation mark that’s not quite a colon and not quite a comma.
The annual occasion happened last Thursday. So be sure to mark your calendar for April 16, 2021, so you won’t miss the occasion next year!
In the world of grammar, the semicolon does have a purpose. The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin—Madison describes it this way:
Semicolons help you connect closely related ideas when a style mark stronger than a comma is needed.
The center says a semicolon makes your writing more sophisticated.
That can certainly be a good thing.
But that quality is not the reason people celebrate the semicolon each year. It’s also not why people have semicolons tattooed on their bodies.
The semicolon’s alternate meaning
The first time I heard about the significance of the semicolon to the world of depression, I felt surprised. I wouldn’t have connected those dots.
But when you read the logic behind National Semicolon Day, it does begin to make sense.
National Semicolon Day pays tribute to those who have thought about or attempted suicide. It also helps inform people about how common suicide is.
You can look at the semicolon — the punctuation mark — like this: it gives a writer the chance to continue a sentence they otherwise might have ended.
You can look at the semicolon — as a symbol — of someone who could have ended their life…but chose not to.
If you see someone sporting a semicolon tattoo, you may be in touch with someone who fought off the thought of suicide or someone who lost a loved one to it.
I’ve said before that I generally dislike tattoos. I think they unnecessarily junk up the human body, which is already beautiful without such marks.
But in this case, there’s a much deeper meaning that shouldn’t be ignored.
It’s definitely worth celebrating.