When to Use a Colon

When to Use a Colon
The colon and the semicolon are two of the most confused punctuation marks used in writing. This article will give you more information on when to use a colon in a sentence or in a list. Read on.
We often come across writing when punctuation marks are misused or misplaced. One universal confusion is that of the comma (,), semicolon (;) and colon (:). Are you wondering when to use a colon instead of a comma or a semicolon? Let us have a look at it.

Use of a Colon

One of the most basic rules of English grammar when using a colon is that it is used to introduce something in a sentence. More commonly a colon used in a sentence introduces a list, an appositive or a series. The following examples will help in better understanding of it.

When to Use a Colon in a Sentence
In a sentence, a colon always precedes and succeeds an independent clause. A single sentence can be separated by a colon only when both the parts of the sentence are independent of each other. Have a look at the following example:

E.g: Don't overlook the first rule: follow your guide!
Here both the parts of the sentence, before and after the colon, are independent clauses.

E.g: My favorite past times are: surfing the net and reading.
This is an example of INCORRECT usage of the colon. You can easily observe that the second part of the sentence is not independent and has no meaning of its own.

When to Use a Colon in a List
The most common usage of the colon is introduction of the list. Have a look at the following example:

E.g: I need to shop for a few things in the store: a pair of shoes, a scarf and a black skirt.
Here the sentence follows the above mentioned rule. One should remember to not to use a colon if the first part of the sentence is not an independent clause.

Use of a Colon in Other Forms

# A colon is used after the salutation or the greeting in a formal letter.
E.g: Dear Mr. Watson:

# A colon is placed after each heading in a memo.
E.g: To:

# A colon is used to differentiate hours and minutes when time is written in a formal style.
E.g: 12:30 pm

# We often come across a colon in a title or a heading of an essay or an article.
E.g: Magnesium: Uses of Magnesium

# A colon is used while writing volume number, Bible verse, or the name and place of publication at the end of the book.
E.g: Vol 3:25
E.g: New Delhi, India: Penguin Publications, 2000

Examples of Use of a Colon

1 - There was a great choice of desserts: pastries, cocktails and brownies.
2 - Famous Love Quotes: Sweet and Cute Love Quotes
3 - The fact cannot be ignored: He is smarter than you!
4 - Genesis 2:19-20
5 - "The President, Ladies and Gentlemen:"

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