Use of Colons with Examples - Research Prospect

Use of Colons with Examples

Published by at August 18th, 2021 , Revised On September 21, 2021

You can introduce elaborations, descriptions, a list of items, phrases, words, clauses, and pointers using a colon. A colon can also be used to introduce a quote in some cases.

The purpose of a colon is to introduce additional text that explains the preceding text. The text that follows a colon should be a complete thought, an independent clause, or a sentence that could stand on its own.

Use of Colon to Introduce a Quotation

You can use a colon to introduce a quotation. For example,

The team leader was disappointed at the performance of his team members, so he shouted at them: “I am going to give up on this project.”

The teacher asked the student: “Will you be able to submit the project in time?”

Using a Colon to Introduce an Elaboration or Description

Though many experts disagree with me, I stand by my words: “The advertising costs of Facebook are a lot higher than they were a few years ago.”

Again when using a colon to introduce an explanation or description, make sure the text before it can stand alone as a complete sentence.

  • To get a full driving license: you will need to pass both the theoretical and practical tests.
  • You can get a full driving license: you will need to pass both the theoretical and practical tests.?
  • The results of the study revealed: a balanced diet on a regular basis can help obese people lose weight.
  • The results of the study were conclusive: a balanced diet on a regular basis can help obese people lose weight.

Introducing a Word or Phrase with a Colon

When a colon is used to introduce a word or phrase, it aims to emphasize. For example,

He wanted just one thing from his career: money.

The research study revealed an important insight about the company: a high customer retention rate.

The text before the colon should be a complete and independent thought that could stand as a complete sentence on its own.

  • Donald Trump announced that the primary objective of his government is: job creation
  • Donald Trump announced that the primary objective of his government is simple: job creation.

Introducing a List with a Colon

When the introductory phrase is an independent clause, a colon can be used to introduce a list.

There are four departments in the company: marketing, writing, development, and sales.

However, you don’t need to use a colon for introducing a list each time. There is no need to place a colon after the verbs “to include” and “to be”.

    • The four departments in the company are marketing, writing, development, and sales.
    • The four departments in the company are marketing, writing, development, and sales.

You cannot use a colon in the first sentence because the first part of it cannot stand on its own as a complete thought, and so it is not an independent clause. In a way, the word “are” plays the same role as what a colon would have (connect the items to the earlier part of the sentence), so a colon is not required to introduce the list.

There are two ways to fix this mistake: rewriting the text before or removing the colon from the sentence.

Incorrect

    • The researcher will collect data from company A, company B, and company C.
    • The four employees of the company are Mike, Sara, John, and Ali.

Rewriting the text that comes before

    • The researcher will collect data from three companies: company A, company B, and company C.
    • The four employees of the company are Mike, Sara, John, and Ali.

Removing the colon

    • The researcher will collect data from company A, company B, and company C.
    • The company is comprised of four employees: Mike, Sara, John, and Ali.

About Alvin Nicolas

Nicolas has a master's degree in literature and a PhD degree in statistics. He loves to write, cook and run. Nicolas is passionate about helping students at all levels.