MEI Grammar Workshop #3 – How to Use the Colon (:)

August 04, 2015

Welcome to the third lesson in MEI’s Grammar Workshop series, our bitesized series of tutorials that will guide you through the grammar wilderness.

Today we’re looking at the colon.

Visually, the colon consists of two equally sized dots centered on the same vertical line and is most commonly used to provide a pause before introducing related information.

For example, the sentence “A pizza is made up of three parts: a base, the sauce and the cheese” is grammatically correct. The first part of the sentence informs the reader that there will be three parts to a pizza; the colon implies “here are the three parts”.

Colons are also commonly used to introduce a list, like so:

These are the pool rules:
1. Do not run.
2. If you see unsafe behavior, report it to the lifeguard.
3. Did you remember your towel?
4. Have fun!

Finally, here’s a great tip on how to use a colon (thank you
“A way to decide whether a colon is acceptable is to test whether you can replace it with the word ‘namely’. For example, you could say, ‘Grammar Girl has two favorite hobbies, namely, watching clouds and seeing how long she can stand on one foot.’ Most of the time, if you can replace a colon with the word ‘namely’, then the colon is the right choice.”

So there you go! Colons are used in other contexts too but this’ll do for now. Questions in the comments below, and please Like and Share to spread the grammar love.

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