Three Tips for Using Colons

blog home

Not to be confused with a semi colon, a colon has three main uses:

  1. Use a colon between two main clauses when the second clause explains or clarifies the first. A clause is a group of words containing a verb that can either stand alone as a complete sentence or make up part of a more complex sentence. You can learn more about clauses here.

    Here are some examples of colons used in this way:
    • She soon discovered the secret to spelling success: practise as often as possible.
    • The journey won’t be easy: the buses are infrequent and there are often railway engineering works on the weekends.
    • She had one motto in life: never give up.
  2. Use a colon to introduce a list. You can learn more about the correct punctuation for formatting lists in writing here.

    Here are some examples of colons used before a list:
    • Please make sure all students pack the following: toothbrush, pyjamas, change of clothes, pocket money, waterproof jacket.
    • All applicants require qualifications in the following subjects: Maths, English, Science, IT, and French.
  3. Use a colon before a quotation (and sometimes also before direct speech). Read more about how to punctuate direct speech here.

    Here are some sentences that show colons introducing quotes and speech:
    • The sign read: ‘Please keep off the grass!’
    • He knew what she was going to say before she said it: ‘I love you.’
    • In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is famous for asking: ‘O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’

Our blog covers a range of topics from spelling and grammar tips, to unusual word origins, to idioms on every theme. If you found this article useful, why not take a look at some of our other posts?


18 Oct 2018
blog home

"Thank goodness for Spellzone during this remote learning phase. The site is easy for students to navigate independently and they're really enjoying the activities and spelling games. You get an awful lot for your money with Spellzone. Really reassuring is the very prompt response with helpdesk queries. I've very rarely needed the helpdesk, but when I have, the issue has been addressed and sorted within a very short time."

Sarah Taggart, Oasis Academy Lord's Hill