I still remember the day we met; my grade-eight grammar teacher recommended you with forget-me-not, fire-engine-red ink in place of a capriciously employed em-dash.
Only the bravest and worthiest of young grammarians were permitted to adopt you in their prose; hence, from that day forth I’ve worn you like a badge of honour.
I still recall the moment my juvenile narrative first profited from your mature wisdom. A reluctant convert, I snuck you into a three-hundred-word handwritten exposition on “Casey at the Bat”; I even used you outside of the quotation marks.
Since that day I’ve been your faithful admirer. My longing for you is even evident when I type enfrançais; my heart commands that I not separate you with a space from the word that precedes you.
In my vintage 1982 edition of The Chicago Manual of Style yours is the best thumbed of all pages–dog-eared number one-forty-seven–where into six little vignettes from 5.68 to 5.73 those know-it-all Chicagoans squeezed your every known use in the English language; e.g. when you appear before the expression e.g. if the break in continuity is greater than that signaled by a comma. (For comparative examples see 5.54.)
But I know you’re worth much more than these grammarians perceive; surely the greatest poets and philologists toiling in tandem could never describe the fullness of your beauty.
Oh, how I’ve sinned in the name of loving you: pride, in objectifying you when no other mark can satisfy me punctually; lust, for the time when I may again see at the tip of my pen your seductive point-and-bend; envy, when those like Vonnegut and Hemingway treat you better than I; wrath, my rage when I see a perfidious comma in what was previously your domain; sloth, when thoughtlessly I start a new sentence rather than employ a coordinate clause; greed, when I wish to hoard you all to myself and not share your muted grandeur with others; and gluttony, my sin when I use you six times in a horrendously long sentence.
Mine is a love unrequited, I know, for you are just a fleeting fleck between a colon and a comma.
But dearest, I would never misuse you, as so many do, next to a callous conjunction that connects two independent clauses, and my love for you is greater than my desire to exploit you as do your many Internet sycophants.
Should you never return my love still I shall remain forever your humble and faithful applicant; accordingly, never will I remit watchfulness of your applicability as semi-colon, the connector of two coordinate clauses; semi-colon, the clarifying attribute dividing a series of two or more objects in a post-colonal sequence with internal punctuation; and semi-colon, the super comma, where an ordinary comma would just be too damn confusing!
I love you always ;
“Love Letter to the Semicolon” was published in The Walrus (online edition) and won second prize in the 2008 The Walrus Love Letters contest. (The first-place winner was a deserved honoree; read it here.)