Grammar Lesson: The Colon and Semicolon
- Use a colon (:) to introduce a list or series of items.
- You should have the following books and supplies with you on the first day of class: Roget's Thesaurus, two pencils, a dictionary, and two notebooks.
- These are the eight parts of speech: noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.
Note: A colon should not follow directly after a verb or a preposition. The following two sentences include incorrect uses of the colon.
- The two days of the weekend are: Saturday and Sunday.
- We saw our dog run into: the woods, the house, and the neighbor's backyard.
- Dear Sirs:
- Dear Madam:
- It is now 4:22.
- The train is due here at 5:08.
- Mary Shelley wrote the novel Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus.
- Did William Shakespeare write Twelfth Night: Or What You Will?
Place colons where they are needed within these sentences.
- Please bring the following items with you watch, ring, cell phone, and pen.
- Dear Madam (as the salutation of a business letter)
- The following students have been selected for the varsity debate team Matthew, Hillary, and Sophia.
- My grandfather saw the movie Superman The Movie in 1979.
- Were you there at 440 that afternoon?
- Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses. In this case, a conjunction is unnecessary. The two independent clauses should be closely related.
- Isaac is a champion discus thrower; he holds the state record. (This is an acceptable use of the semicolon.)
- Isaac is a champion discus thrower; his dad is a baker. (This is an unacceptable use of the semicolon.)
- The concert was not just good; it was fantastic! (This is acceptable.)
- Use a semicolon between a compound sentence's clauses that are joined by certain transitional words. Use a comma after these transitional words and phrases. See the sample sentences below.
- The new tools are great; besides, they were perfect gifts for Dad. Your dance score was one of the highest in this early competition; consequently, you will now move on to the next round.
- This movie's special people include Missy Swit, lead; Kate Lewis, director; Morty Mulis, producer; and Freida Ling, cinematographer.
- At the beach we collected shells, wood, and seaweed; and then we barbequed, walked the shore, and made a campfire.