Literary Tattoos: Semicolon Punctuation

This is Sarah Shay‘s tattoo:

Yep. It’s a semicolon. I’m a grammar and punctuation nerd by nature, and I love the semicolon in particular because, as many semicolon-haters will eagerly point out, you don’t “need” them. Unlike the more utilitarian period or comma, a semicolon never really needs to be used. It’s a stylistic choice; you can create really elegant sentences with them if you know what you are doing. I’m considering an interrobang on the other wrist.


  1. sara says

    this is brilliant. last year my friend did a series of artworks for a foundation class, and they were all based off the semi – colon. which made me love it even more than I already did. anyway, this is fantastic. and your idea for your other wrist is equally awesome.

  2. says

    Ah, what an honor to be on Contrariwise! Someday perhaps I'll have a real literary tattoo that's more worthy of this collection, but until then…

    Thanks, Jen!

  3. Jools says

    Dumble thumbs up on the semicolon AND on the interrobang idea. The interrobang is a poor grammatical beast ignored by evolution. Personally, I have a lot of fondness for the ampersand, too.

  4. Bekka says

    @Jools, I too have a special fondness for the ampersand, even if mine usually look like it had a few too many the night before. It's for the sophisticated sloth in everyone I think.

  5. stacey says

    Hey, I recognize this. I'm pearls over at HitRecord, and weirdly enough, yesterdays tattoo is mine. HitRecorders takin' over the web.

    P.S Kickass semicolon

  6. andrea says

    Wonderful tattoo and thank you for introducing me to the wonderful new mark, the interrobang! I had never heard of it before this and i think it is a lovely idea.

  7. kim says

    As soon as I saw your pic, I thought to myself 'Nice. I'd love to get an interrobang'. Imagine my delight when I read onwards. Fab idea, I say do it :)

  8. says

    Hey Sarah,

    Very cool tattoo! I have always been more the math type, but recently got into writing poetry. Anyhow, I have to disagree: the semicolon IS necessary—it's really the only way to separate a series of items that have commas themselves.

    For instance: this morning I had two, extremely potent energy drinks; a bunch of un-toasted, store-brand toaster pastries; and some rich, creamy, sinfully delicious chocolate cake for breakfast.

    Or, I've lived in Yorktown Heights, NY; Hollywood, CA; and Milton, GA.

    (All the above is true, except for the chocolate cake. :o)

    Thanks too for introducing me to the interrobang. I've used the ?! and !? combos for years. Not being much of the literary type I'd no idea that such a beast existed. The Interweb is awesome! Isn't it!?



    PS. You can find my poetry on Facebook if you friend me or here: if you're curious.

  9. Amy says

    Here are some fun ideas I just wanted to share, because I'm a writer by profession and a grammar and punctuation nerd myself.

    I work in advertising, and here we call exclamation points "slammers." When I first heard that I thought it was hilarious, and similarly I love the idea of the interrobang … both as punctuation, and just the word itself.

    As for semicolons, Kurt Vonnegut said they are "hermaphroditic transvestites" representing "exactly nothing," except for suggesting that you may have gone to college.

    I loooooooove Kurt Vonnegut (one of my Vonnegut tattoos is on this site, and I'll be submitting my second one soon) … but he was wrong about semicolons. I LOVE them, just as much as I love the Em dash and the ellipsis.

  10. says

    Right on, Amy!

    I do some computer programming as well and we call an exclamation point a "bang," and I'm guessing we're not alone there, hence the interrobang.

    Another fun one I've heard is "splat" for an asterisk (*). Programmers/techy people use a lot of underscores for file names and such, but I haven't heard of a good nickname for them, yet. Any ideas?

    And, I'm loving the em dash too (ALT+0151 on the num-keypad)—it's so groovy!


  11. Chad says

    I love this! I also love the idea of the interrobang as well! It's nice to know someone else shares my afinity for grammar. Ha ha.

  12. Harvin Bedenbaugh says

    I LOVE semi-colons! As an editor, I encourage people to use semi-colons to keep similar ideas flowing instead of chopping them up with periods. In college, the semi-colon became known by my peers as my "boyfriend" because I was always bragging about it's strengths and inserting them in other's works. I have to add this to the potential-tattoo list!

  13. Andrew says

    [Semicolons] are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

    -Kurt Vonnegut

  14. Lyzzy says

    I love semicolons. I love using them when I write. The semicolon along with the interrobang are my favourite punctuation marks. A potential tattoo, yes?

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