Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

6.8: Colons

  • Page ID
    100274
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Colons are used to draw attention to certain words. They are used after an independent clause to direct attention to a list, appositive or quotation, between independent clauses when the second clause summarizes or emphasizes the first clause, or after the greeting in a formal letter. Some examples follow.

    Use of Colons
    Case Example Note
    List
    • I have three sisters: Catherine, Sarah and Mary.
    • Sandwich requires several ingredients: bread, butter, cheese, ham and tomatoes.
     
    Appositive
    • My mom has three pets: two cats and a dog.
     
    ? There was only one possible explanation: The train had never arrived.  
    Quotation In the words of Homer: "Doh!"  
    Between independent clauses Life is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get.  
    Introduction of a definition Hypernym of a word: a word having a wider meaning than the given one. Is a special case of appositive.
    After salutation Dear Sir or Madam:  
    In a dialogue Patient: Doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains.
    Doctor: Pull yourself together!
     
    Separation of title from subtitle Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope  
    Separation of the chapter and the verse numbers of religious scriptures
    • John 3:14–16 (or John III:14–16)
    • The Qur'an, Sura 5:18
     
    Separation within time of the day
    • The concert finished at 23:45.
    • This file was last modified today at 11:15:05.
     

     

    Common Misuse of Colons
    Case Example Note
    Between a verb and its object
    • Some important computer programs are: Word, Excel and Publisher.
    • Sandwich requires: bread, butter, cheese, ham and tomatoes.
    By omitting the colon, the example becomes correct.
    Between a preposition and its object My cars of choice consist of: Honda Accord and Ford GT. By omitting the colon, the example becomes correct.
    After "such as", "including" or "for example"    

    Bibliography


    6.8: Colons is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?