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Get yr grammar on: World Semicolon Day

April 16, 2018


Word Crimes: We all commit them. Srsly, theyre part of the rising process, write?!

When we are rushing to get the words out, to go with the flow, to stay with our wild minds, to get our down draft down, we need to follow the rules of writing practice as set out by Natalie Goldberg and not worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar. But then there comes the time to revise those down drafts, and to fix them up, as Anne Lamott describes in her chapter on “Shitty First Drafts” in Bird By Bird.

So to help you get your grammar on, I have two videos, and a very important public service announcement.

Did that help?

Or just confuse matters more?

Believe it or not, this video by Weird Al Yankovic has a lot of great advice when it comes to spelling, punctuation and grammar:



On a more serious note, today is April 16th, 2018, World Semicolon Day.

And by serious, I mean it: there is nothing more serious than mental health.

And by getting your grammar on, I mean it literally:


World Semicolon Day raises awareness  about suicide,  mental health and suicide prevention, a day to share stories and semicolon tattoos, to share encouraging words with friends on social media.

On Friday, I was at a retreat for the Ventura College English Department. Following a writing activity, we were sitting in groups of three and sharing about teachers who had a major positive impact on our lives. I did a freewrite of a poem (that I will revise and share here later) that referenced the impact of my high school journalism advisor, Mr Don Buffon.

But in both of the other group members’ stories, suicide figured in prominently, and I shared about an important graduate school mentor for me who committed suicide. Last year, one of the best papers by a student I ever read was about his best friend’s suicide and about the struggles he had with trauma following his friend’s death. Just the other day, I spoke with a student about the impact of suicide on families. In fact most semester’s a student in one of my classes loses someone to suicide. I know more people who have lost family members to overdose which can be a form of suicide, but I had a funny, warm, generous uncle-in-law who took his life 25 years ago; I think it is no accident that World Semicolon Day si the Day after Tax Day — I understand for my uncle his suicide was related to financial pain and insecurity. Closer to home, someone very close to me threatened to take his life recently, and the repercussions of that threat continue to reverberate. Personally, I have not been immune to this struggle, and I suspect I know more people who can relate to it than I know people who do not.


So today, I will wear a Sharpie tattoo in recognition and solidarity.

Project Semicolon is dedicated to the prevention of suicide; through raising public awareness, educating communities, and equipping every person with the right tools, they save lives:

Learn more about the Semicolon Project and find tools for prevention.

Learn more about how to use semicolons.

Stillness is a way to peacefulness. In “Paradise in Plain Sight,” Karen Maesen Miller writes: “When you are still, no eyebrows are arched, no fists are clenched, no fingers are tapped, no sideways glances are given. When you are quiet, nothing mean, cruel, or critical is said. We have the power to transform everything when we have the courage to do nothing. To make peace, stop tossing stuff into the water.”

So the teacher with the pointer stick above and the foul language? Try not to let her get to you. You are the author of your own life.

As Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories.”

So let’s get to writing! And living!

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo makes silk applique thangkas, which are part of the Tibetan cultural tradition. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessings to Leslie’s work and encouraged her to make images that speak to the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures. Her Weekly Wake-ups as pictured above, depict a detail from the large works and provide a thread of inspiration to set the week on the path to awakening. Learn more about her work  in the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2018 8:14 am

    Lovely post, Gwen. I wasn’t aware of World Semicolon Day but like the idea of it. And your grammar videos injected some levity into what is otherwise a very serious subject. Thanks for sharing.

  2. April 16, 2018 10:08 am

    Thank you, Lauren. It’s an important topic and I appreciate how they are using the semicolon! As a college writing teacher, I realize there is so much more to my students’ lives than grammar — even though that is my task, there is so much to teach and share!

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