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Colons

A colon [:] functions like an equals sign.  In fact, it looks like a cut-off equals sign.  A colon draws attention to what follows.

1.  Use a colon before a list of three or more items, at the end of a sentence.  A complete sentence must precede the colon.

Example: A good benefits package includes, for example, the following: health insurance, disability insurance, retirement, flex time, day care provisions, and three-week vacations.

Do not use a colon to introduce a list after a verb, verb form, or phrase, unless a complete sentence precedes the colon. Check the sentence that precedes the colon with the “They refused to believe the idea that ___” test.  The following examples are incorrect:

(1)  [Colon after verb]  A good benefits package includes: health insurance, disability insurance, retirement, flex time, day care provisions, and three-week vacations.

(2)  [Colon after verb form]  I wanted a good benefits package, including: health insurance, disability insurance, retirement, flex time, day care provisions, and three-week vacations.

(3)  [Colon after phrase]  A good benefits package includes, for Example: health insurance, disability insurance, retirement, flex time, day care provisions, and three-week vacations.

2.  Use a colon to link material at the end of a sentence when it “equals” an earlier idea.  A complete sentence must precede the colon.  (See the explanation above for Colon Rule #1.)

Example: To complete my degree, I need two more classes: an internship and senior seminar.

3.  Use a colon after the salutation in a business letter.

Do not use a semi-colon [;].

Example:  Dear Dr. Brunswick:


 

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