Colon (:) When to Use a Colon with Colon Punctuation Rules

Colon (:) When to Use a Colon with Colon Punctuation Rules

Most of the times, the Colon (:) symbol is misunderstood, due to every culture and the way it is used for those cultures. Usually, Latin relatives languages (Eastern Europe) are using the colon with different purposes than Americans. Because the colon came from Latin writers, this punctuation mark kept it’s pure meanings for Latin countries. It can happen that Latins will use the colon symbol too much, in order to make their writing much easier to write and read. It is said that this symbol was specially invented for the lazy artists, in order to put everything on the list and write as simply as possible.

Whatever, the colon symbol started from somewhere (as any other thing) and then expended to the whole world. That’s why, some of the rules may apply to all the cultures

What Is a Colon?

A colon is a punctuation mark, which can be easily interfering with something else, such as a semicolon ( ; ). In fact, Aristophanes was a librarian who invented a symbol with three dots, arranged vertically. Each dot had its meaning, such as:

  • The highest dot represented the end of a sentence
  • The dot on ‘ the ground ‘ had the meaning that the comma has today ( breaking the propositions )
  • The dot placed in the middle represented a break between those two.

After some time, those dots split up into a colon, a comma, and period, as it should be.

The actual meaning of a colon is like a statement. You are making a pause after a sentence, noticing the most important things. Usually, after a colon, the bullets are coming through. When using a colon, is like you are saying a lot more, such as ‘ here’s what I mean ‘, ‘ that is what to say

When to Use a Colon?

Because there are many punctuation marks that are used in a sentence, is good to know when is the right time to put the colon symbol.

  • Use the colon mark when the sentence are completed. Usually, people are making this mistake because they think the colon will continue the previous sentence. This also depends on the writing style (if you are writing in Chicago style or AP style).
  • You can use a colon to introduce an item or a list of items that are based on the same topic. E.g. I’m going in a camping trip so I will need: sleeping bags, a tent, a fan.
  • You can use a colon as a replacement to the exclamation mark, and so you are giving your point of view. It also used when writing scripts for a play, because it gives a specific tone to the speaker (it depends on the context). E.g. You need one thing to lose weight: a good diet.
  • Do not use a colon symbol when the list is directly following a verb or preposition. That’s why is better to use bullet points so you won’t be afraid of using.
  • Do not use a colon when you are using a gerund verb. E.g. I bought many things including milk, oatmeals, bread.
  • You can use a colon when you don’t want to excessively use semicolons. This way, the colon will separate two sentences so you will not make a hardly understandable sentence. E.g. He really made it the way he wanted: he built the dream house for his family. This is only allowed when using the AP style.
  • When you are writing in the Chicago style, be sure that after the colon, your first letter is in upper case.
  • You use the colon so as the words seem more spread it out across the page.
  • You can use a colon after a short introducing, like a headline, so you are making the reader to follow the next steps you were writing.
  • If you want your page to look good, is better to let a space between the sentence and the things that are coming after the colon. As you are starting a new phrase. Many people are wondering how much space should they let after placing the colon, and the answer is ‘ just like after using a comma ‘. And that is mostly when you write the paper on PC, because you can press the SPACE button once and that’s it. Manually is much harder to follow this rule properly.
  • It’s better to use the colon in business letters, rather than a comma (as it is used). At the end, when you are sending the best regards (or what else), use the colon to separate your name from the salutation.
  • You can use the colon even in a non-sentence way. E.g. when you are writing the clock (13:34 p.m.).
  • The colon symbol is used when you need to separate the volume and the page from a book. Is mostly used when writing the bibliography in Chicago style.
  • You can use a colon when separating a question-answer interview. E.g. Q: When do you want to leave the country?, A: As soon as possible.
  • The colon symbol is also used in bible verses.

How to Use the Colon with Quotation Marks?

There is always a problem when combining the quotation marks with any other punctuation mark. The only thing to keep in mind is that every punctuation mark should be placed outside the quotation mark. Even the colon.

When you want to quote someone and using the quotation marks, a colon is welcomed in the sentences instead of comma symbol. This style is mostly used by writers and editors and it looks good on a paper.

E.g. writing dialogues between two characters in a play.

Take care when using this punctuation mark, in order to get the best result. As you can see, it has many purposes. But if you are also using a grammar app to check your papers and so on, it will tell you to use the colon only when you are creating a list. Otherwise, it will not let you using the punctuation mark for its purposes.

Example Sentences

  • There is one thing a human being simply cannot do without: love
  • Samuel plays four sports: volleyball, soccer, badminton, and tennis.
  • I need the following items from the store: butter, sugar, and flour.
  • PS: Don’t forget to bring your towel.
  • Please bring the following fruits: apples, plums, oranges, and bananas.
  • Q: When do you want to leave the country? – A: As soon as possible.
  • You have two choices: finish the work today or lose the contract.
  • Detective Holt said: “The kidnapper is a man we must catch and the sooner the better”.


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