The Semi-colon and is it dead?

No this isn’t a topic that will end up in a Phythonesque dead parrot sketch. But over my morning black americano I was reading The Independent when I stumbled upon an article about punctuation, and a complaint from our French cousins that:

"English writing style has killed the semi-colon; it’s too direct, they say."

anyway it was quite an interesting topic (for a Friday) so I thought I would share it with you below.

Punctuation: does it matter? - This Britain, UK - The Independent

On the web site, one of my goals is to get good and consistent use of punctuation, grammar and spelling so the site is as professional and easy to understand as possible.  I don't always get it right as I am not an English language expert.  Recently I have been trying to find out the correct use of the colon and if you should have a capital following it. Some sites suggest in British English that it should always have a capital, and in others that it depends.  So my decision for now is get a level of consistency and try and get the capital correct.

Whilst on the subject of language, check out the Microsoft Language Portal

" designed to enable individuals and communities around the world to interact with each other and with Microsoft’s language specialists on matters related to computer terminology. "

The site is really useful if you are looking for computer wording translations as well as providing (ripped form the blog posting below):

  • A search tool that allows you to search for English terms and shipped software strings in more than 90 languages
  • More than 30 style guides are available on the site for you to download for free
  • A feedback tool for you to use to give us your feedback on any term used in any of our products and technologies
  • Information on our terminology processes
  • Information on upcoming events and interesting terms

Well worth a visit if you have to do any type of translation or localisation work.

The Microsoft Language Portal team have a blog as well over at

Thanks to Mina, my French Canadian counterpart who sent me the information.


Comments (4)
  1. superrcat says:

    I understood that the beginning of a sentence or a qouted sentence is capitalized, but the first word after a colon is still part of the same sentence as the words preceding it. This information is coming from an American, so the rules I understand might not be the same as British grammar rules.

  2. robmar says:

    Thanks superccat – from my very in-exhaustive web research I found articles such as:


    ‘There is some debate about whether the clause following the colon should begin with a capital letter or not. If the colon precedes a formal quote, you should begin the language of that quote with a capital letter. If the explanation that follows the colon contains more than one sentence, you should use a capital letter. In other cases, some guides simply advise consistency, others advise that a capital should always be used.’

    So I am trying to stick to the consistency track 🙂


  3. mharr says:

    As a experience VB/VB.Net developer working on a C# project, I answer your question in the title with "I wish!!!".  The 2 most annoying things about c# is semicolons and case-sensitive.  I will never understand why these holdovers from archaic programming days are still in place.

  4. Paul JJ Alix says:

    Capitalization is now optional: some time ago it was the norm. Contemporary writers often don’t capitalize. Look at what you want to say and remember it’s up to you the writer.

    Consistency may not be essential as different sentences portray different meanings with completely different words etc..

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