Colons and semicolons are among the most useful
but also rich, generous and psychologically interesting kinds of punctuation.
They look, of course, very similar,
and that can cause confusion and alarm.
But the distinction is very simple.
外表上看 冒号由两个点组成 相互隔开 一个在另一个上方
Visually the colon consists of two dots, spaced apart, one above the other,
while the semicolon is a dot floating above a comma.
In terms of their use, although they’re both used to link together parts of a sentence.
The grammatical rules which govern them work in quite different ways.
A colon is used either to explain something in more detail,
or to identify a set of things explicitly.
So for example, Maria only wanted the best from life.
Then we put the colon in here:
“一幢漂亮的房子 一个美满的家庭 以及一份璀璨的事业”
a beautiful home, a loving family and a glittering career.
But we also use a colon whenever we want to drill deeper into a topic.
“Maria不知道该想什么” 然后 “：”
Maria didn’t know what to think: then in it goes
after the divorce she had to question everything.
What follows the colon can be a list, a sentence in its own right
or even a single word as in this example.
Maria still had one important quality:
A semicolon is different. And in its way a great deal more subtle.
It links together two sentences that might have stood on their own,
but it throws their relationship into particular focus.
For example, Maria had had enough.
Then in goes the semicolon,
she preferred to be alone than misunderstood by another person.
A semicolon could always be replaced with a full stop,
but a full stop doesn’t do what a semicolon does so wonderfully,
give us a sense that two statements are related.
Observe 2: what would happen to this sentence
if we put in a colon rather than a semicolon?
“Maria简直受够了： 比起被别人误会她更愿意孤身一人 ”
Maria had had enough: she preferred to be alone than misunderstood by another person.
Things get blunter and more linear.
This means that all of Maria’s fed upness was to do with being misunderstood.
但是在实际生活中 事情的联系千丝万缕 说不清道不明 更像是分号而不是冒号
But in life, connections tend to be more like semicolons than colons.
Take this description of Frank’s mood connected up with a semicolon.
Frank had a feeling of melancholy; autumn was coming.
Semicolons can artfully draw comparison or contrasts between related statements.
One of the greatest fans of semicolons
是美国19世纪的一位作家 “William James”
was the American 19th century writer, William James.
It was for him a piece of punctuation ideally suited to keeping the flow of the mind
from either stopping altogether as if it had been dammed,
as it does with a full stop,
or else turning into an uncontained incomprehensible torrent.
Here are two examples from William James’s work of semicolons in operation.
Good humor is a philosophic state of mind;
it seems to say to nature that we take her no more seriously than she takes us.
I maintain that one should always talk of philosophy with a smile.
And here’s another paragraph from William James, which uses a lot of semicolons.
A great nation is not saved by wars, it is saved by acts without external picturesqueness,
“即言谈 写作 合理地选举；
by speaking, writing, voting reasonably;
by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties;
by the people knowing true men when they see them
and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans and empty quacks.
Colons are logical.
They unpack things,
but semicolons are closer to life.
They are what we use when we want to connect but can’t entirely explain,
when things are related but not entirely dependent.
The semicolon by gently linking ideas together,
invites reflections and interesting juxtapositions.
Instead of closing off a thought, it introduces another,
giving us pause to see symbiotic links.
Its tone is mature and tentative.
For example, I believed that life was a series of simple decisions;
the more I lived, the more complicated those decisions became.
We would be wise to see more things in life
through the distinctive lens of the semicolon.
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