Your Friend, the Colon

I was pleased with reader reaction to my recent piece on contemporary punctuation guidelines. Several hoped there would be more. Not to worry … Today, get to know your friend, the Colon, when to use it and how to use it. But first, say hello to it’s little brother, the Semi-Colon.


1. The semicolon is stronger than a comma, but weaker than a period. Use it to connect related independent clauses without conjunctions. Examples:

        “Managers shouldn’t criticize the company in front of customers; such behavior is detrimental.”

        “His work availability is very limited; however, the users value his knowledge.”

2. Use a semicolon to separate items in a series that contain commas. Example:

        “For first quarter we will fund systems for marketing, distribution and packaging; for second quarter we will shift our funds to customer      service, operations and auditing.”

3. Use a semicolon before conjunctive adverbs. Example:

        “The terminals arrived early; therefore, they will be installed next week.”


1. The colon indicates that something is about to follow and is often used to introduce a list. Example:

        “The report recommends to: seek new customers, enhance existing systems and develop new applications.”

2. Use a colon to stress an appositive (a noun that renames the preceding noun) at the end of a sentence. Examples:

        ”Our success is due to the work of the group: organizational development.”

        “The team focused on increasing one thing: quality.”

3. Also, use a colon to introduce a long quotation.


Look for more grammar brush up next time.