I completed my novel and an editor friend graciously offered to assist me with formatting. As a former scientist, I am more familiar with technical or academic writing, so formatting fiction can be a challenge. My friend stripped out my semicolons and replaced most with a simple period. I asked why, was I using them inappropriately? I know they are used to separate independent but linking clauses, why make two short complete sentences when one will suffice? She laughed and said they are fine if you are a dead British writer, other than that they are used infrequently at best in modern fiction writing. Academics and technical writers are more prone to their usage by the nature of their writing.
This prompted me to do independent research to confirm her advice and I found this gem:
You are allowed one semicolon in your entire working life as a novelist. You can use more than that if you insist, but quite honestly you have a disease that should be treated and I refuse to be an enabler for you. https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2010/07/16/correctly-formatting-your-novel-manuscript/
Funny, but seriously? So I hunted a bit more then found Grammar Girl also has a great post on the usage of semicolons. She quotes no less of an authority than Kurt Vonnegut:
First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/vonneguts-famous-semicolon-advice-was-taken-out-of-context
Huh? Her article continues to explain that Vonnegut was engaged in hyperbole, but it remains vague if he actually shunned the usage of semicolons when he stated this:
He ends any lingering doubt when he uses a semicolon later in the essay and then writes,
*And there, I’ve just used a semicolon, which at the outset I told you never to use. It is to make a point that I did it. The point is: Rules only take us so far, even good rules.
Are semicolons only allowed in technical or academic writing?