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To my right, was a painting called Red Blue and that’s just what it was; a large cobalt blue canvas with a single red stripe painted vertically down the middle.

I've never used a semicolon (at least correctly, gasp). My understanding is that semicolons are best used when joining two parts of a sentence that could be sentences separately.

Is this a correct usage?

closed as primarily opinion-based by curiousdannii, Cascabel, jimm101, BladorthinTheGrey, NVZ Jan 24 '17 at 19:05

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    Welcome to English Language & Usage. Some people will probably reply that you still have not used it correctly. Punctuation like this is a style choice: there is nothing grammar-related about it. – Cascabel Jan 23 '17 at 22:04
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    @femmebug, The way you're defining semicolon is correct; the usage is not. In your example sentence, you'd be better served by a colon or a dash (...that’s just what it was: a large cobalt blue canvas...). As it's currently written, the second half of the sentence (after the semicolon) is a fragment and would not work on its own. To use a semicolon, it would need to be something more like To my right was a painting called Red Blue and that’s just what it was; the large cobalt blue canvas had a single red stripe painted vertically down the middle. – freeling10 Jan 23 '17 at 22:23
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    @freeling10 Thank you for this. I wasn't looking closely enough at the second part of my sentence which is, indeed, a fragment. – femmebug Jan 23 '17 at 22:31
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You need a colon to connect an introductory statement to a conclusion:

To my right was a painting called Red Blue, and that’s just what it was: a large cobalt blue canvas with a single red stripe painted vertically down the middle.

I would forget about semicolons, except to separate list items that contain commas; and if you are unsure about using a colon, use a comma instead.

Yay! I used a semicolon.


Please note that I hardly ever use semicolons, since most of the time, I am unsure about their usage. However, I noticed that my sentence could take a semicolon, and I just couldn't resist it.

  • This certainly makes sense. Thank you for explaining. I get anxious about using any type of mid-sentence punctuation beside the good ol' comma. The colon does make sense in this situation though, so thank you. – femmebug Jan 23 '17 at 22:27
  • @femmebug There's nothing wrong with the humble comma. – Mick Jan 23 '17 at 22:30

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