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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Elusive Colon

Colons are a mysterious thing to some, and it can be difficult to decide when one is necessary during transcription. Knowing when it is and is not appropriate to use a colon can help you figure it out quickly as you're typing along.

First, use a colon at the end of an independent clause/complete sentence to introduce a list.

RIGHT:
I am going to the mall to go to three stores: H&M, Old Navy and Macy's.

Do NOT use the colon if what precedes the list is not a complete sentence.

WRONG:

I am going to the mall to go to: H&M, Old Navy and Macy's.

You can also use colons when the list is introduced by introductory words, for example: namely, for example, that and others.

Colons are used to separate two independent clauses when the second clause elaborates on the first clause. You can find more information on semicolons here and here.

I decided to turn down the rush file: my husband and I had plans to go to dinner that night.

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation lists the following when it comes to using a colon versus a semicolon where there are two clauses involved:

Use a colon instead of a semicolon between two strong clauses (sentences) when the second clause explains or illustrates the first clause and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the clauses. If only one sentence follows the colon, do not capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.

In this case:
I decided to turn down the rush file: My husband and I had plans to go to dinner that night. The thought of staying up late after dinner to work on it was not appealing.

As seen above, colons are also used to introduce long quotations.

2 Comments:

margi said...

I decided to turn down the rush file: my husband and I had plans to go to dinner that night.

*snicker*

Shaina said...

If only that were true.