Conjecture: Colons & the Revitalization of the Pinky Finger

As a frequent user of the colon in all of my daily writing—general work, texts, twitters, emails and blog posts—I found this article both amusing & fascinating. It’s funny: I never realized that the colon was once on the decline.

“It is sad to think people are no longer learning how to use the colon…” muses grammarian Lynne Truss in Eats, Shoots and Leaves, “not least because, in this supreme QWERTY keyboard era, the little finger of the human right hand, deprived of its traditional function, may eventually dwindle and drop off from disuse.”

In “Colonoscopy: It’s Time to Check Your Colons“, writer Conor J. Dillon lists the standard textbook usages of the colon: the lister (the one I’m employing now), the talker, the natural extension and the juxtaposer. He then goes on to describe and name the new colon: the jumper (Oh my! I just used the natural extension).

For grammarians, it’s a dependent clause + colon + just about anything, incorporating any and all elements of the other four colons, yet differing crucially in that its pre-colon segment is always a dependent clause.

(Yikes.)

For everyone else: its usefulness lies in that it lifts you up and into a sentence you never thought you’d be reading by giving you a compact little nugget of information prior to the colon and leaving you on the hook for whatever comes thereafter, often rambling on until the reader has exhausted his/her theoretical lung capacity and can continue to read no longer.

(Breathe.)

See how fast that goes? The jumper colon is a paragraphical Red Bull, a rocket-launch of a punctuator, the Usain Bolt of literature. It’s punchy as hell. To believers of short first sentences–Hemingway?–it couldn’t get any better. To believers of long-winded sentences that leave you gasping and slightly confused–Faulkner?–it also couldn’t get any better. By itself this colon is neither a period nor a non-period… or rather it is a period and it is also a non-period. You choose.

He then goes on to theorize the reasons for this colon renaissance in which he credits emoticons as well as “compression typing” via twitter, texting and the like.

So for all my grammar lovers, literary buffs, writer friends or for those who are just bored & enjoy a good article: read it. If anything, it makes you aware of how many times a day that little pinky on your right hand gets a work out.

Trust me: it’s probably a lot.

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One thought on “Conjecture: Colons & the Revitalization of the Pinky Finger

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