Thursday, February 19, 2004

People shouldn't use semicolons unless they know how

They're tricky. It's no wonder they've fallen out of favour.

The LA Times ran this piece the other day (which I'm reproducing here to avoid the registration hassle):

SAN FRANCISCO—Conservative groups trying to stop the city from issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples failed to win any immediate action today in two separate court hearings.

Superior Court Judge James Warren told plaintiffs late this afternoon that they would likely succeed on the merits of their case but said he would not issue a court order until they corrected a punctuation error in their legal filing.

“I am not trying to be petty here, but it is a big deal. That semicolon is a big deal,” Warren told attorneys, according to an account by Associated Press.

In documents filed with the court, the Proposition 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund had requested a court order that would force the city “cease and desist issuing marriage licenses to and/or solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples; to show cause before this court.”

“The way you’ve written this it has a semicolon where it should have the word ‘or’,” the judge said. “I don’t have the authority to issue it under these circumstances.”

Copyeditors rejoice! The law is on our side!

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