Punctuation Marks: Colon

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Colons represent a more complete break than semicolons but not as complete a stop as a period.

Before a Series or List

Colons are used to introduce a series or list only after a complete sentence. When the series immediately follows a verb or preposition, do not use a colon.

    • IncorrectOur five travel choices are: the Bahamas, Hawaii, Mexico City, Acapulco, and Peoria.
    • CorrectWe have five travel choices: the Bahamas, Hawaii, Mexico City, Acapulco, and Peoria.
    • IncorrectThey were interested in: one brass bed, two lace pillows, one afghan comforter, and a chamber pot.
    • CorrectThey were interested in the following items: one brass bed, two lace pillows, one afghan comforter, and a chamber pot.

Between Independent Clauses

Use a colon to introduce a question or related statement following an independent clause. The second independent clause may or may not begin with a capital letter. Whichever way you choose, be consistent in your writing.

    • She had only one thought: What was she going to do now?
    • I know the answer: reverse the two equations.

Time

Colons are used to express time in figures. Do not use the words o’clock after the figures. However, expressions such as noon, in the afternoon, AM, PM, and midnight can be used.

10:30 AM
4:35 PM

12:00 midnight
8:30 in the morning

Formal and Business Communications

Colons follow the salutation in a formal or business letter, report, memo, or other type of business communication.

    • Dear Mr. Winfield:
    • Dear Buyer:
    • Dear President West:
    • To the Research Staff:
    • To All Managers:
    • Attention Union Members:
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