The article below provides helpful colon usage rules and examples.
What Is a Colon?
A colon is a type of punctuation mark that lets the reader know that an explanation or example will follow. Writers use a colon in many different situations.
Using a Colon to Introduce a List
One of the most common uses of a colon is to introduce a list of items. Remember not to place a colon directly after a verb, a preposition, or the words because and as , though. Instead, rephrase the sentence.
Colon Examples: I think we should add the following people to the wedding invitation list: Max, Steven, and Leah.
Colon Examples: When we go camping, be sure to bring these items with you: a sleeping bag, a tent, food, and a pillow.
Colon Examples: The Great Lakes consist of the following: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario, and Erie.
Colon Examples: We’ll serve these dishes at the picnic: sandwiches, potato salad, fruit salad, and pie.
To Introduce a Quotation
Use a colon to introduce quotations that are either formal or lengthy.
Quotation Colon Examples:
Colon Examples: Our CEO made an important announcement today: “Beginning this summer, financial operations will move from our office in Chicago to our office in Dallas. The production department will remain in Chicago, however.”
Colon Examples: One of Mark Twain’s observations about friendship included this: “The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are in the wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are in the right.”
Colon Examples: President Abraham Lincoln began the Gettysburg Address with the following line: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Colon Examples: In his play As You Like It , William Shakespeare made the famous statement: “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players: / They have their exits and their entrances; / And one man in his time plays many parts, / His acts being seven ages.”
A Colon between Independent Clauses
Use a colon between two independent clauses when the second clause provides an explanation or summarization of the first clause.
Colon Examples: You make a good point: we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
Colon Example: Dr. Cunningham shared her concerns with us: Ryan’s bone is probably broken.
Colon Examples: Angela has good news: she got a promotion at work.
Colon Examples: Debbie told me a secret: it’s her birthday today.
Other Common Colon Uses
Use colons after greetings in business letters and after labels that call attention to important ideas. Also place colons between the hours and minutes in a notation of time and between chapters and verses from certain religious texts.
Colon Examples: To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to express my interest in the position of sales associate.
Colon Examples: Attention: All customers must wait in line here.
Colon Examples: Jack needs to leave at 1:45.
Colon Examples: We read a passage from Genesis 3:5.
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