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Colon

Aug 30, 2022
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Read the following sentences: 

  • A lot of games are being played in the Olympics: football, boxing, tennis, etc. 
  • Shakespeare has left an indelible mark in many areas of art: drama, poetry, and acting. 
  • We always have two options in front of us: take up the challenge and overcome it, or give-up without even giving it a try. 

In the sentences framed above, each sentence has a part that elaborates on the first part.  

In sentence 1, some games that are being mentioned in the first part of the sentence are elaborated in detail in the succeeding part of the sentence. Similarly, the remaining two sentences also follow the same pattern.  

And both these parts in each sentence are separated by a punctuation mark.  

What is this punctuation mark called? 

The punctuation mark that separates the two parts in each of the given sentences above is called a colon

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Let us see when a colon should be used effectively in a sentence. 

If you look closely, the sentences above can be written in another way. For instance, take the sentence “A lot of games are being played in the Olympics: football, boxing, tennis, etc.”  This sentence can be rephrased without using the colon and it will read like, “A lot of games are being played in the Olympics like football, boxing, tennis, etc.”  Here, the colon is not used as it can interrupt the flow of the sentence which was gained with the addition of the word like

Here’s the deal; consider a colon to be a flashing arrow pointing to the information that follows it. When a colon appears in a sentence, it usually implies, as follows, which is/are, or thus, like; 

  • This novel touches up on a lot of social issues as well: poverty, racism, and extremism. 
  • Most of my cousins live in other countries: England, Canada, and Germany. 
  • My father cooks good food: pasta, soups, cakes. 

The colons used in these sentences indicate that the reader is about to know about the various things that are collectively mentioned in the first part of each of the sentences. 

Just like a semicolon, a colon is also used to separate two independent clauses within a sentence. But here:  

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  1. The second clause should not be in any vague connection with the first one; it must be direct and closely connected in some sense to the first one.  
  1. Also, the main emphasis should be on the second clause, not on the first one. 

Examples: 

  • The decision is final: we are not participating in this event. 
  • His writing is mediocre: there is still room for improvement. 
  • You only have one job to do this evening: introduce the aspirants to the chief guest. 

A colon is also used in sentences to introduce a quotation, like: 

  • My mother always told me: “Respect those you respect you.” 
  • Bacon said: “Reading makes a full man, writing an exact man, speaking a ready man.” 

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