[Originally Broadcast on
Public Radio]
Commas, Semi-colons, and Colin Powell

Now that he's not our Secretary of State I'd like to suggest a new job for Colin Powell: Secretary of Punctuation. We sure could use him. And his first name is very appropriate. (I don't think there's a punctuation mark called a Condoleeza.)

So what if he spells it differently-C-O-L-I-N instead of C-O-L-O-N. That just underscores the problem; a lot of writers seem to have had a colin bypass.

There are two battles going on right now and a General is just what we need if we're going to win. The first involves the colon…with an 'O'. It's so simple, but people keep throwing those two little dots around like shrapnel in a mine field. The general needs to tell them that there are just three places for a colon.

First place: use it when you're introducing a list,

Use it before you begin an explanation,

Who knows; if the General succeeds in the war to win the colon and semi-colon, maybe we can get him to take on the quotations of mass destruction.