myQBook English Grammar Concepts

Colons (:)

Colons bring attention to whatever follows them. The main grammatical uses for colons are as follows:

1.       To introduce a lengthy quote, phrase, or clause that continues, defines, or intensifies the idea of whatever comes before the colon.

For example, consider the following:

There is one thing I admire about Denise: her patience.

My favorite quote from Plato is: “Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.

In the first example, the colon is calling attention to a phrase that defines the main idea in the sentence.

In the second example, the colon is introducing a quote.


2.       In formal and business letters at the end of the greeting.

Consider the following:

To whom it may concern:

Dear Mr. Royce:

In these cases, the colon is used at the end of the greeting of a formal business letter.


3.       After the words “the following” or “as follows”, usually to introduce a list.

For example:

In his suitcase, the police found the following: two footballs, one basketball, and an eyedropper.

Here, a colon is used to introduce a list after the words “the following”.


4.       To mark that someone is speaking (this is commonly seen in play scripts).

Consider the following example:

Jason: Would you like to go fishing with me, son?

Jared: Sure, that would be great!

In this example, the colon is used to mark speech.


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