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What, exactly, are colons? How are they different from semi-colons? How does one use them correctly? Here are the answers to all your questions – or at least the main ones.
Show the way:
- Use colons to direct a reader’s attention toward a list or quotation, for example:
- Just a few kinds of foods make up a typical college meal: carbohydrates, sugar, and then more carbohydrates.
- Thomas Wolfe claims that home is never the same place after you’ve moved away: “You can’t go home again,” he writes.
- Between independent clauses when the second explains the first, for example:
- The biggest problem in America relates to money: there is a huge separation between the rich and the poor.
Avoid some common mistakes (don’t insert colons here):
- Between a verb and its compliment (“…a typical college meals include: carbohydrates, sugar…”)
- Between a preposition and its object (“…a typical college meal consists of: carbohydrates, sugar…”)
- After such as, including, or for example (“…such as: peas, carrots…”)
- After the salutation in a formal letter
- Dear Sir or Madam:
- 4:45 or Ratios (1:2)
- Between titles and subtitles
- Between city and publishers in a worked cited
Colons can come in handy in a lot of writing, both to make the sentences flow more smoothly and add variety to your sentence structures. They have many different functions and when used correctly can add a lot to everyday writing.
Information taken from A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker (available on the shelves). For more information, see: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/punct/colon.html or The Brief Penguin Handbook, which is located on the bookshelves in the Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors.
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