The punctuation mark colon

Posted by Manjusha Filed in English Writing

The punctuation mark colon (:) is almost always used after a complete sentence. Its function is to indicate that what follows is an explanation or elaboration of what precedes.

A colon is used when famous sayings are quoted.

In the words of Murphy's Law: 'Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.'
Solomon says: 'Of the making of books there is no end.'

A colon can introduce a list.

A colon is never preceded by a white space, and it is never followed by a dash or a hyphen.

In British English, it is unusual for a capital letter to follow a colon (except at the beginning of a quotation). However, this can happen if a colon is followed by several complete sentences.

In American English, colons are more often followed by capital letters.


Semicolons (;) are sometimes used instead of full stops, in cases where sentences are grammatically independent but the meaning is closely connected.

Commas are not usually possible in cases like these.

Sections in this article

Full stops, question marks and exclamation marks
Colon and semicolon
Quotation marks