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What is a colon?

A colon is a punctuation mark used to separate significant parts of a sentence, particularly when the first part offers a sense of anticipation for the second. This form of punctuation is also used in other conventional applications as noted below.

How should colons be used?

  • Use a colon to separate a complete sentence from a list (of three items or more) that follows.
    • The students brought items from the supply list to class: paper, pens, and highlighters.
  • Use a colon to separate a complete sentence from a statement that explains or clarifies the first.
    • The college bookstore sells more than just textbooks: clothing and office supplies are also available for purchase there.
  • Use a colon to separate a complete sentence from a noun or noun phrase that further identifies or explains the subject.
    • The librarian’s primary interests drew him to the college library: love for books and a quest for knowledge.
  • Use a colon after a complete sentence that introduces a direct quotation.
    • The researcher reported on one of the consequences of homelessness: “Those who live on the street were found to be vulnerable to a variety of communicable diseases.”

 For additional information on colons, see also: