I have the following sentence:

Relationships once so convoluted and beyond me were now clear: Pain became love; betrayal, loyalty; nonchalance, care.

What I'm trying to accomplish is list the relationships that are now clear by using the colon to begin the list, and by using the semicolon as a "supercomma" of sorts.

Does this follow all English rules correctly? Or, am I doing something completely wrong here?

  • Doesn't it need dashes instead of commas when you omit the verb? Thought English and Russin are similar in punctuation (with English being less strict). Just asking :)
    – Philoto
    Jun 2, 2011 at 4:45
  • 2
    @Philoto: dashes would be unusual in this style of contraction. I would personally quibble about the capital letter for "Pain", but that's not relevant to the question.
    – user1579
    Jun 2, 2011 at 14:55
  • @Rhodri Darn... and here I thought punctuation was something I can just put in place like I would normally. In russian this sentence means entirely different thing with commas than with dashes (or em-dashes?). To me it reads Relationships once so convoluted and beyond me were now clear: Pain became love; betrayal AND loyalty; nonchalance AND care.. It's obviously not what OP intended. Have to get used to it now...
    – Philoto
    Jun 2, 2011 at 15:02
  • @Rhodri Yeah, I totally forgot to make Pain lowercase. Thanks for that.
    – Qcom
    Jun 2, 2011 at 22:03
  • 'History became legend ... legend became myth' from LOTR (Tolkien) resonates strongly here. Every 'quote' I've come across seems to tinker with at least the punctuation here. I'll check in the original later. Mar 15, 2020 at 11:11

3 Answers 3


There's nothing awkward about it. It's stylistically somewhat extravagant, but there's nothing wrong with that. It's crystal clear. Some people may stumble momentarily on the use of ellipsis in the latter portion, but it's nothing to get worked up about.

  • :) Glad it was extravagant, I attempt to flirt with heterodox punctuation usage. Also, thanks for teaching me about ellipsis in the form of what I used here. I thought it meant only ... to omit certain portions of text directly. But I looked it up and it can be more subtle.
    – Qcom
    Jun 2, 2011 at 1:52
  • 1
    Well, I'm generally of the mind that there is something wrong with stylistic extravagance: It makes your prose tougher to parse. In a poem where you want the reader to go really slowly and think really hard about what you are writing that's perhaps a good thing. Just about everywhere else, it should be avoided.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:21
  • @BOSS - Reading some of your other comments, it sounds like this is from a short story you are working on? Short stories exist in kinda of a middle space, and I can see where you would want to get fancy like this in places. Just don't write stuff like this in an essay, where the whole point is to communicate effectively. Oh, and good luck. I have a special place in my heart for short stories.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 2, 2011 at 13:27
  • Oh, and I think you are dead on right about using an ellipsis there. That would have made it much clearer to me.
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 3, 2011 at 18:14

I believe the usage is all correct, but even with your explanation, I had to read it several times to understand the construction.

  • 1
    I agree. I think the first part of the sentence either needs more context, or needs clarification. The part with the commas and semicolons, on the other hand, looks just fine.
    – Marthaª
    Jun 2, 2011 at 1:30
  • OK, perhaps it's a little awkward? Would you like me to provide some more context? This actually part of a short-story I'm working on.
    – Qcom
    Jun 2, 2011 at 1:37

It is correct, but could have been put in a clearer way using commas,:

Relationships once so convoluted and beyond me were now clear: Pain become love, betrayal became loyalty, nonchalance became care.

If you're writing, the above would have conveyed your meaning better, but if you're speaking, your own example is the best.

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