What’s that I see in this Delta Air Lines newspaper ad? Could it be … ?
“This Is New York; We Need to Look Good.” New York Times, Page A8, Oct. 17, 2011.
Yes, friends, it’s a correctly used semicolon in a newspaper ad—a very rare bird indeed.
Hard-working semicolons play many roles in sentence-building. (For a summary, read Grammar Girl.) Here, the semicolon connects two closely related independent clauses. The copywriter could have used a period, which would have been equally correct; but it would have created a more staccato rhythm instead of gentle undulation. The latter is more appropriate to an airline, I’d say.
Unfortunately, what we’re more likely to see in ads is the comma fault (also called the comma splice), in which a comma weakly struggles to bridge two independent clauses. I’ve faulted Coca-Cola ads for their comma faults.
Below the headline, the Delta copy gave me more joy:
At LaGuardia, we’re starting over with a brand new Delta Sky Club®, locally influenced restaurants, and revamped gate areas with iPads that let you order food right to your table (and play games while you wait).
I don’t care about the iPads: it’s the serial comma after “restaurants” that made my heart swell with happiness. Granted, the serial comma is a style choice, not a black-and-white rule, but it’s a choice I happen to prefer. (It helps with clarity, always a Good Thing.)
I was also pleased not to see a hyphen between “locally” and “influenced”—an all-too-common error. Adverbs ending in -ly never take hyphens.
One more cheer for Delta: on the website, the customer-feedback section is labeled “Comment/Complaint.” Good for Delta for acknowledging that customers are sometimes dissatisfied.