August 25, 2006
the colon and how to use it
The colon. So simple, yet so misunderstood.
Here's a simple rule of thumb: a common use of the colon is to indicate a setup: payoff relationship. The set-up portion should be an independent clause (has all the grammatical parts to stand on its own as a sentence). The payoff portion can be anything--a single word, a phrase, a clause. Often, it's a list.
A common error is that the part of the sentence preceding the colon is not an independent clause. Unless the writer is using some kind of inverted construction ("space: the final frontier"), he has just committed an error.
CORRECT: I went to the store and bought many items: milk, eggs, and the ingredients for lasagna.
INCORRECT: My purchases included: milk, eggs, and the ingredients for lasagna.
CORRECT: My goals are to go to college and then to law school.
INCORRECT: My goals are: to go to college and then to law school.
Examples of incorrect colon usage abound. Please do NOT do your part in contributing to that abundance. Use the colon correctly!
August 25, 2006 | Permalink
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In grade school I was taught that a colon stands for the words "the following" or "as follows." To this day I say those words in my head every time I type a colon. If neither makes sense at that place in my sentence, I don't use a colon. If one does make sense there, I do.
Posted by: Sue Liemer | Aug 28, 2006 7:11:48 AM