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Punctuation: Colon

Tags: colon

Punctuation: Colon

From Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press:

A colon marks a break in grammatical construction while emphasizing the relationship between the parts. It represents a break greater than that indicated by a semicolon and less than that indicated by a period.

I. Emphasizes a close connection

The fear of death is universal: even the lowest animals instinctively shrink from annihilation.
A colon is commonly used to emphasize a close connection in thought between two clauses, each of which forms a complete sentence and which could instead be separated by a period. 

II. Separates from illustration or amplification

Most countries have a national flower: France the lily, England the rose, etc.
A colon may be used to separate a clause which is grammatically complete from a second which contains an illustration or amplification of its meaning

III. Introduces a formal statement, extract, or dialogue 

The rule may be stated thus: Love one another.

Charles: Where are you going?”
George: To the pub.”
A colon may be used to introduce a formal statement, an extract, a speech in a dialogue, etc., (unless this is preceded by a conjunction, like that, immediately connecting it with what goes before).

IV. Takes the place of an implied phrase

This is true of only two nations—the wealthiest, though not the largest, in Europe: Great Britain and France.
The colon thus often takes the place of an implied namely, as follows, for instance, or a similar phrase. Where such word or phrase is used, it should be followed by a colon if what follows consists of one or more grammatically complete clauses; otherwise, by a comma.

V. Follows an introductory remark

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Put a colon after the introductory remark of a speaker addressing the chairman or the audience.

VI. Separates hours and minutes, chapter and verse  

4:30 p.m.
Matt. 2:5-13
Put a colon between hours and minutes in time indications, and between chapter and verse in Scripture passages.

VII. Place a colon outside of quotation marks

Susan writes under the head of Notes and Comments:  no one knows who she is.
The colon should be placed outside the quotation marks, unless a part of the quotation.

VIII. Material following a colon sometimes begins with a capital

The rule may be stated thus: Love one another.

Charles: Where are you going?”
George: To the pub.”
If what follows a colon is a formal statement, more than one sentence, a speech in dialogue, or a quotation, it should begin with a capital.

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Punctuation: Colon


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