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Use of Colon

The Shiny Golden Rules to Follow While Using a Colon

The correct use of colon seems to baffle people even though it has only one major use. The following article will cover the rules regarding the usage of this punctuation mark.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
The colon is a punctuation mark that is indicated by two equally sized dots in a vertical line, that is, (:). Its use in writing helps in formally or emphatically introducing a list, appositives, quotations, or even series. A colon implies a promise and the promise is delivered by the matter following the promise. In this article, we will discuss the appropriate usage of a colon in a sentence according to the rules of English grammar.

Appropriate Usage

To place extra emphasis or to imply a degree of formality, a colon can be used. The phrase, word, or clause can be used as an apposition to a substantive in the introductory statement.

EXAMPLES

Word
The most important thing for the body to survive: oxygen.

Phrase
The evil step-mother's intentions were clear: death of the princess.

Clause
Always keep one thing in mind: never drink and drive.

It is included after an introductory statement that indicates a point clearly.

EXAMPLES

In a List
The children asked for many expensive gifts this Christmas: a remote-controlled car, PlayStation 2, the new edition sports shoes, and a Chocolate Labrador.

In case of writing a formal, long, or paragraphed quoted passage, a colon helps in separating the introductory statement from the quotation.

EXAMPLES

For Quotations
The golden rule for handling men by Mae West: "Tell the pretty one's they're smart and tell the smart one's they're pretty."

Many people are confused about the correct use of a colon in letter writing. In a formal or business letter, the colon is placed after the salutation. In case of an informal letter, a comma follows the salutation.

EXAMPLES

In Formal/Business Letter
  1. Dear Mr. Brown:
  2. Gentlemen:
  3. To The Chairman:
A colon is used to separate the title from its subtitle.

EXAMPLES

To Separate Titles
  1. Joey Goes to Oberland: Audrey Wins the Trick and Dora of the Lower Fifth by Josephine M. Bettany
  2. Imaginary Realist: The Life of Timothy Eugene by Milton Sharp
Incorrect Usage

One cannot use the colon to separate the verb from the object.

EXAMPLES

Incorrect
My favorite hobbies are: drawing, painting, sketching, and coloring.

Correct
My favorite hobbies are drawing, painting, sketching and coloring.

The colon in a sentence should not separate the preposition from the object.

EXAMPLES

Incorrect
She was the head of: accounts, cash registers, treasury department, etc.

Correct
She was the head of accounts, cash registers, treasury department, etc.

A sentence that has introduced a word, phrase, or clause by a colon, should end with the introduced element.

EXAMPLES

Incorrect
There were 3 demands of the demonstrators: higher pay rise, longer breaks, and half day on Saturdays, but none of their demands were met by the management.

Correct
There were 3 demands of the demonstrators: higher pay rise, longer breaks and half day on Saturdays. Unfortunately, none of their demands were met by the management.

A colon is also used to indicate time (10:45 am), cite a Biblical passage (John III:14 - 16), introducing a speech in a dialog, and in many more instances.