Is the following punctuation usage correct? To Jim it was a mystery; to Jane, a revelation.

  • Can you say a bit about why you think it might or might not be correct?
    – phenry
    Nov 18, 2014 at 23:16

1 Answer 1


That structure is called a zeugma. Use of a semicolon is inconsistent. The Wikipedia article cites two classics: Bacon, who wrote

Histories make Men Wise; Poets Witty; The Mathematicks Subtill; Naturall Philosophy deepe; Morall Graue

and Johnson, who quoted Cicero as writing

"Lust conquered shame, boldness fear, madness reason."

(Note, though, that the article replaced commas with semicolons and inserted commas for the missing verbs when it copied that quotation.)

For whatever it's worth, I think you should use a semicolon there, since each piece is technically a whole sentence. The counterargument is that the clauses in the zeugma are yoked together too tightly to be separated that far.

As for the commas, the one after "Jim" that you omitted is recommended, although Strunk & White suggested that initial prepositional phrases of fewer than four words need not be set off by commas; the one after "Jane" is mandatory (pace Bacon).

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