Three Times to Use the Colon

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Today I’ll tackle when to use colons. (Semicolons and colons are not interchangeable. They serve entirely different functions.)

I recently gave you the three semicolon rules. Colons are completely different. The colon is like the blare of a trumpet, alerting you to what’s coming. It comes after a complete sentence and introduces one of three things:

An example: We needed only one thing: a large piece of wood.

A list: Before we went camping we stocked up on the following:  bread, chocolate, marshmallows and beer.

A quotation: The doctor’s words were encouraging: “You do not need to lose weight and can stop exercising and eat as much pasta as you want.”

Yes, it’s that simple.

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2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

2 responses to “Three Times to Use the Colon

  1. I note that your examples are all grammatically complete before the colon. What are your thoughts on using a colon to introduce examples or dialogue when the introductory text is not a complete sentence? For example: is this to be avoided? He added: “Thanks for your response.”

    • Hi. I appreciate your comment. Your example is commonly seen and I can’t say it’s not valid. I’m perpetrating the basic rules of grammar and punctuation. In the case of s colon, most grammar texts recommend that a colon follow a complete sentence. But exceptions always can be found and defended. Another example is using a colon after the abbreviation “Ex.”

      I’m so glad you wrote, and I appreciate your question and feedback. Do stay in touch.

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