A few weeks ago the Grammarnatrix did a column on semi-colons. I never thought that the Concord Monitor would provide such a superb follow-up as it did the day after the Patriots’ victory over Houston in the divisional playoff game, but there is was, an entire paragraph explaining the superiority of the New England team:
“They don’t have to rely completely on the offense, the defense can actually make plays. The offense doesn’t have to rely completely on Tom Brady, the running game actually works. And Brady doesn’t have to rely on a few select weapons, he has a bristling arsenal.”
Now, I love the repetition in structure of these three sentences, but someone should have realized that the commas are mistakes. There are six independent clauses here, two in each sentence, and the semi-colon is the proper punctuation between two independent clauses written as a single sentence.
Curiously, on the same morning, writing about the same event, the New York Times got it right in quoting Aaron Hernandez on Rob Gronkowski: “It’s hard to replace a player like him; he’s a freak of nature.”
A spoken comment like that is often reproduced in print with the erroneous comma. The correct insertion of a semi-colon by the Times indicates a writer (and perhaps editor) who is really on the ball. Too bad the Monitor fumbled.