Learn When to Use a Colon
What are Colons?The colon is a punctuation mark that looks like two periods stacked one on top the other (:). There are quite a few different ways to use colons. Here we share the basics of when to use a colon.
What is the Purpose of a Colon?A colon is used to create separation between an independent clause and a list or explanation. It is also a very useful tool for separating independent clauses from quotations.
ExamplesWhen separating an independent clause from a list, use the colon as illustrated in the following example.
- The historical board’s review committee includes the following officials:
- There’s not much time: get to the sale while you still can.
- Our high school acting coach liked to use his favorite quotation, which is from Shakespeare’s Tempest: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
Additional Rules for Using the Colon CorrectlyAn additional frequent question to when to use a colon, is whether the independent clause that follows a colon in a sentence should be started with a capital letter. In many cases, it should be. If that clause is a formal quote, it should be begun with a capital letter as illustrated below.
- Einstein had this to say about art: “True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”
- Remember: The best gifts are meaningful ones from the heart.
- There are reasons to love birthdays: First, they’re festive. Second, they give everyone a good excuse to eat cake and ice cream.
- Let’s be clear about something: Exclamation points really have no place in business correspondence.
When Not to Use a ColonIt’s useful to know when to use a colon, but also when to avoid colons altogether. When you’re considering whether to include a colon in a sentence, be sure that the introductory clause is capable of standing on its own, particularly if none of the conditions previously discussed in this guide are met. Some examples of the types of sentences in which colons are often misused follow.
- Grandma’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies included eggs, real butter, vanilla, and brown sugar.
- Jim’s favorite candies were M&Ms, Life Savers, and Skittles.