When to use a colon

This week’s tip is brought to you by an often-misunderstood punctuation mark: the colon.

When to use a colon:

 

  • To introduce a list, tabulation or text, where the text preceding the colon is a sentence that can stand on its own

 

New England comprises six states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

  • To add emphasis

You had one job: to press the right button.

When not to use a colon:

 

  • When a list is preceded by “including,” “such as” or similar words or phrases

 

The earbuds come in many colors, including blue, green and red.

  • When a list is not preceded by a sentence that can stand on its own

The states that make up New England are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

 

  • To combine two related independent clauses (this is a semicolon‘s job)

 

We tested a variety of devices; the Samsung Galaxy S6 performed the best.

Capitalization: Cap the word following a colon only if it begins a new sentence.

Let’s face it: We need to pay our taxes.  

Colons and quotation marks: Unlike commas and periods, colons go outside quotation marks, unless they’re part of the quotation itself.

There’s a reason they call him “eagle eye”: He notices every detail.

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