Colon

Colon

The colon can be used to introduce lists and information, separate main clauses and to add emphasis to information. It is used with numbers and in formal and informal written correspondence. You can read about these uses and more by clicking on the tabs below.

Content

  • Main Clauses
  • Direct Speech
  • Correspondence
  • Explanations
  • Subdivisions
  • Lists
  • Emphasis
  • Numbers

Main Clauses

Use the colon between two main clauses when the second explains or illustrates the first.

Example:
I only have time to exercise at the weekend: from Monday to Friday I work from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and three nights a week I go to Spanish classes.
Both of my brothers live overseas: Colin lives in New York, and Jim in London.

Info

Don’t capitalize the first word after the colon unless it is a proper noun or the colon is followed by more than two sentences.

Direct Speech

Use a colon to introduce direct speech with names or short phrases, as in a play or famous saying.

Example:
Juliette: O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
In the famous words of Mae West: You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

Correspondence

In American English, use a colon after the opening salutation in a business letter.

Example:
Dear Ms Dickens:

Info

A comma or no punction mark is used for business correspondence in British English.

Use a colon in business or personal email correspondence.

Example:
re: next week’s meeting
cc: Mitchel Jones
Attention: Human Resources
PS: How was your weekend?

see also: commas: salutaions and valedictions

Explanations

Use a colon to introduce an explanation.

Example:
My brother is staying with me for a few weeks: he broke up with his girlfriend.

Subdivisions

Use a colon to introduce a subject subdivision – for example in a heading or title.

Example:
Writing School: Punctuation

Lists

Use a colon to introduce a list.

Example:
Please state the following information in your application: full name, date of birth, address, telephone number.

See also: Brackets: Lists, Comma: Lists, Semicolon: Lists

Emphasis

Use a colon to emphasize a word or phrase at the end of a sentence (in the same way as a dash).

Example:
After a long week of anticipation, Ella finally got her essay back: A+.
A 5:00 am start and a four-hour bus ride, followed by a 22-hour plane journey: it was the longest day of travel yet.

See also: Dashes as Commas, Colons or Brackets, Dash: Additional Information

Numbers

Use a colon to separate hours from minutes.

Example:
7:45 pm

Use a colon to show a ratio of two numbers.

Example:
2:3

Use a colon to separate verse from chapter in biblical references.

Example:
Genesis 1:31