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How to Write Clear, Readable, Effective Sentences that Readers Love!
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PUNCTUATION > Apostrophe > Colon > Comma > Dash > Exclamation > Parenthesis > Period > Questionmark > Quotations > Semicolon

Punctuation marks: How to use the COLON

How to use the COLON The colon ( : ) emphasizes the place of transition in a long sentence consisting of many members and involving a logical turn of the thought. Both the colon and semicolon are much less used now than formerly. Today's writers focus toward short, simple, clear sentences, with little punctuation, which we refer to as "the open style." Such sentences need little or no aid to tell their story.

Rules for Using the Colon

1) You have the choice to use a colon after as, such as, that is, namely, for example, etc., when these words introduce a series of particular terms in relation with a general term.

EX.— The American flag has three colors, namely: red, white, and blue.

EX.— I can play various musical instruments, such as: the trumpet, the guitar, and the piano.

2) The colon is used also after a general term followed by several statements in relation with it; the statements are separated from one another by semicolons.

EX.— The darkness of death is like the evening twilight: it makes all objects appear more lovely to the dying.—Richter.

EX.— "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

3) The colon is sometimes used to separate two members of a compound sentence which are subdivided by semicolons. Such cases, however, are rare.

EX.— One's age should be tranquil, as one's childhood should be playful; hard work at either extremity of human existence seems to be out of place: the morning and the evening should be alike cool and peaceful; at midday the sun may burn, and men may labor under it.—Dr. T. Arnold.

4) Use a colon before particular elements in a definite statement.

EX.— Bad: He asked what caused the accident?
EX.— Right: He asked, "What caused the accident?"

EX.— Napoleon said to his army at the battle of the Pyramids: "Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down upon you."

EX.— The job duties of the boss are categorized under three heads: first, second, etc.

5) Use a colon before formal quotations.

EX.—Write a short essay on the following topic: "How does the Internet help you research?"

6) When the formal introduction is brief, it is better to use a comma.

EX.—Julia said, "Come shopping with me."

7) Use a colon after the formal salutatory phrase at the opening of a letter.

EX.—Dear Mr. John Henry:

When the letter is informal, use a comma.

EX.— Dear John,

8) Use a colon between the chapter and verse in scriptural references.

EX.— John xix: 22.

9) Use a colon between the city of publication and the name of the publisher in literary references.

EX.— "The Practice of Writing." New York: Stepping Stone Press, Inc.

10) Some publishers use the colon in the imprints on the title pages of books.

EX.—New York: Harper & Brothers, 2011.

11) Use a colon between the hours and minutes of time, like: 11:45 a.m.

12) Use a colon only when the sentence directly introduces an explanation, list, or quotation which immediately follows.

EX.— The apparatus should be set up as follows: First, clamp the flask in a position a few inches above the table; next, etc.

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PUNCTUATION > Apostrophe > Colon > Comma > Dash > Exclamation > Parenthesis > Period > Questionmark > Quotations > Semicolon