The Rule:Colons are used after independent clauses to call attention to the words that follow them. These words can be another independent clause, an illustration, or a list related to the first clause.
Use a colon after an independent clause (clauses that could be sentences on their own, containing a subject and a verb) to direct attention to a list, an appositive, or an extended quotation.
List: The adventurers’ quest was plagued with: swarms of killer bees, poison ivy, and ornery were-jaguars.
Correct Examples:List: The adventurers were plagued with several misfortunes on their quest: swarms of killer bees, poison ivy, and ornery were-jaguars.
Appositive: There are two times when wizards never arrive: late and early.
Quotation: The battered knight raised his sword and bellowed the following order: “Begone, foul beast!”
Use a colon between independent clauses if the second summarizes or explains the first.
The enticing treasure glinted in the moonlight: you could loot it, but you’d be cursed for eternity.
Use a colon after the salutation in a formal letter, to indicate hours and minutes, to show proportions, between a title and subtitle, and between city and publisher in bibliographic entries.
- Salutation - Dear Sir or Madam:
- Time - 5:30 p.m.
- Proportions - The elves outnumbered the dwarves 5:1.
- Title: Subtitle - Experience Points and Gold: A Beginner’s Guide to Questing
- City: Publisher - Boston: Bedford, 2005
To print a copy of this handout, please click here.