Don’t Use a Period When God Wants a Semicolon

What do semicolons have to do with tattoos? You’d be surprised …

If ever there was a misunderstood punctuation mark, it is the semicolon. If you’re an English nerd like me, you’ve spotted many a misplaced semicolon, probably chosen because of the confusion — for the love of Hemingway, is it a comma, or is it a colon?!

You can read the fancy definition of a semicolon here, but in layman’s terms, a semicolon connects two complete sentences that are related in thought or theme. You could put a period at the end of the first sentence before continuing on to the next sentence, but that seems like too much of a hard or full stop for two sentences that are closely related. The semicolon indicates a relationship between the two sentences but also requires a pause between the two thoughts.

  • Pro tip: To keep your editor happy, never put a comma where a semicolon should be. Because then you have a comma splice. Comma splices are why editors drink coffee (and other things). Editor’s note: AMEN!!!!

But enough about punctuation. There’s more to a semicolon than meets the eye.

Project Semicolon is adopting the semicolon as a symbol of hope for those struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Just like a semicolon adds only a pause to the sentence rather than an end to it, Project Semicolon encourages people: Don’t end your life story with a period; continue it with a semicolon. (See what I did there?)

The movement gained momentum in 2013, and the semicolon became a nationally recognized symbol of hope for those suffering from mental illnesses.

Project Semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel, whose story included child abuse, divorce, rape, drug abuse and a lifelong battle with depression. After losing her father to suicide when she was 18, she became an advocate for mental health. She shared her story to offer hope to others in theirs.

“The semicolon was chosen because in literature a semicolon is used when an author chooses to not end a sentence,” said Bleuel. “You are the author, and the sentence is your life. You are choosing to continue.”

Sadly, in March 2017, 31-year-old Amy Bleuel lost her battle with depression. But her life and story continue to inspire people and offer hope through Project Semicolon.

Hometown Efforts

In my hometown, a tattoo parlor is holding a semicolon-centered event in October for suicide prevention.

Red Room Social Club in downtown Lapeer, Michigan, is offering semicolon tattoos for $60 — with all the proceeds going to the Lapeer County Suicide Prevention Coalition.

The fundraiser runs October 4-7, from 12:00-8:00 p.m. each day. Customers can choose from over 100 semicolon designs. Raffles will also be featured, and the parlor will be accepting cash donations as well. All the artists will be working for free for the entirety of the event.

Over the last three years the Red Room Social Club has held the event, they’ve donated $15,000 to the Lapeer County Suicide Prevention Network. Lapeer’s County Press reports:  “Lapeer County has more suicides per year than homicides per decade.”

If you’re in the greater Detroit area, make the drive up to Lapeer to get your semicolon tattoo and donate to the cause of helping people who need it most.

Your story isn’t over yet. Don’t put a period when a semicolon will work.

(And your editor will be proud of you for that, too.)

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