Guide Your Reader with Punctuation – Colon

It may help if you understand what impact the colon is supposed to have on your reader. Simply put, the colon is supposed to create a sense of anticipation.

Here’s how:

  • Use the colon to introduce a list, a summary, a long quotation, or an explanation of what preceded the colon. NOTE: you capitalize the first word after the colon only if that first word begins a complete thought or quotation or if more than one sentence is required to finish the thought.

Some of you may remember Victor Borge, a comedian who put sound to punctuation. He said, “Santa Claus had the right idea: Visit people once a year.” His quote shows how to use a colon and capital.

  • Use a colon with “as follows” or “the following.” Example: Every writer needs the following: a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and a grammar book.
  • Use a colon with formal salutations (Dear Dr. Hyde:) and in ratios (3:2).
  • Use colons in dialogue.

Ellen: I won’t go to that dumb old dance.

Mom: You will go and you will enjoy yourself.

  • Use a colon to separate your book’s title from it’s subtitle. Example: Encouraging Your Heart: 15 Ways to See, Hear, and Know God Better.

One error I see too often is using a colon after a verb. Here’s an example of what not do. Things you need for camping are: a tent, lantern, sleeping bag, wood, and matches. Delete the colon.

Remember, the colon is supposed to set your reader up for anticipation. Use it the way it’s intended.

Happy writing!

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