Harvard's Latest Field of Expertise: the Semicolon

The story includes Kurt Vonnegut's musings about the meaning of the semicolon, and quotes an expert from Harvard...

A recent public-service ad campaign in the New York City subways used a semicolon in urging riders to dispose of their newspapers rather than leaving them
behind on the train: "Please put it in the trash can; that's good news for everyone."

The New York Times used the ad campaign as an entry point into a broader investigation of the little-used punctuation mark and its cultural associations. The story includes Kurt Vonnegut's musings about the meaning of the semicolon, and quotes an expert from Harvard—Louis Menand, Bass professor of English and American literature and language, who is also a staff writer for the New Yorker—who deems the ad campaign's usage "impeccable."

You might also like

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

How Air Pollution Affects Our Brains

An expert Harvard panel discusses the links between air pollution and dementia, learning, mental health, and mood.

Steven Pinker on Apple’s Vision Pro

Professor of psychology on the science and history behind the Vision Pro.

Most popular

Thinking Conceptually

Studying the role of “executive function” in learning, in minds young and old

Preserving Heirs and Airs

Boston’s history glimpsed through one eccentric’s home

The Week’s Events

Commencement week calendar

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults