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Colons (:)

The colon (:) is used after a clause to introduce additional explanatory information such as a list, quotation, dialogue or question.

The question is this: Who stole the cheese?

Some common mistakes are:

  • using a semi-colon instead of a colon at the beginning of lists
  • adding a dash after a colon at the beginning of a list (: – ).

Colons and initial capitals

Use an initial capital after a colon for:

  • a quote
  • a question
  • proper names
  • full sentences in bulleted lists
  • clauses or phrases that would normally have an initial capital.
    Chapter 1: Staring at the sun

Use an initial lower case letter for:

  • items in a list such as this one
  • a list within a sentence
    Please remember to bring: a pen, paper and something to eat.
  • phrases or clauses that amplify, contrast or summarise the previous words.
    There’s only one word to describe his behaviour: immoral.

Online grammar programs

If you want to learn more about grammar, register for one of Mary’s online grammar courses at www.onlinewritingtraining.com.au


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