Page Up Arrow

Online Writing Lab

Colon Use

The colon is one of the most misused punctuation marks in writing.  Most beginning writers know that it is used with a list, but many are not aware of the other times it is used; for instance, the colon should be used after an independent clause.   The following rules dictate when to use a colon:

Rule #1: Use a colon after an independent clause and before a list.

Examples:

Notice how there is an independent clause preceding the colon in the above sentences.  In the following sentences, there is not an independent clause, so it would not be correct to use the colon:

Rule #2: Use a colon after an independent clause and before a quotation.

Examples:

Rule #3: Use a colon between two independent clauses when the second clause emphasizes or explains the first.

Examples:

Note: Colons are also used after salutations in business writing. 

Examples: