Colons and Semicolons Study Guide
Colons and Semicolons
Sometimes you get a glimpse of a semicolon coming, a few lines farther on, and it is like climbing a steep path through woods and seeing a wooden bench just at a bend in the road ahead, a place where you can expect to sit for a moment, catching your breath.
LEWIS THOMAS (1913–1993)
Next to commas, colons and semicolons are two of the trickiest punctuation marks. In this lesson, you will find out where these types of punctuation belong and why.
The colon is used to introduce a list, statement, or phrase within a sentence; it gives emphasis to the items that follow it.
List: To make a basic salad, include the following items: lettuce, carrots, tomato, cucumber, and onion. Statement: The rule was clear: Absolutely no food or drinks are allowed. Phrase: There was one thing I forgot to write down on my test: my name!
Not all lists require a colon. Do not use a colon after a preposition or a verb:
Incorrect: Please bring two pencils, graphing paper, and a calculator to: room 201, room 202, or room 203. The brownies are: delicious, chocolaty, and rich. Correct: Please bring two pencils, graphing paper, and a calculator to room 201, room 202, or room 203. The brownies are delicious, chocolaty, and rich.
Colons are also used to introduce a lengthy quotation
According to President Abraham Lincoln: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
and to introduce the subtitle of a movie or book.
Book: Wolf Rider: A Tale of Terror is an exciting mystery adventure novel written by Avi. Movie: Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey is almost completely silent.
Colons separate the minutes from the hour in written time
The train headed for Cincinnati departs from the station at 6:47 A.M.
and separate the volume and issue number, and the volume and page numbers, of books and magazines.
Scientific American9:20 [volume 9, issue 20]
National Geographic48:14–19 [volume 48, pages 14–19]
Use a colon to end the salutation of a business letter.
Dear Mr. Dunlap: To Whom It May Concern: Dear Sir/Madam:
The semicolon is used to connect two independent clauses whose topics are related.
Our house is a dingy gray color; it needs painting badly
My uncle owns a car wash; we get free car washes during the summer.
The house's dingy gray color and the fact that it needs painting are closely related. The semicolon helps emphasize this.
Semicolons are also used to connect two independent clauses that are separated by a conjunctive adverb (see the following chart).
Our house was a dingy gray color; hence, it got painted.
My uncle owns a car wash; consequently, we get free car washes during the summer.
Additionally, semicolons separate items in a series that already contain commas themselves.
The planning committee for the prom included Cheryl, the class president; Carol, the vice president; Julie, the treasurer; Mark, the committee chairman; Kevin, a co-chairman; and Mr. Michaels, the senior class advisor.
A practice exercise for this concept can be found at Colons and Semicolons Practice Exercise.
Add your own comment
Today on Education.com
WORKBOOKSMay Workbooks are Here!
ACTIVITIESGet Outside! 10 Playful Activities
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- The Five Warning Signs of Asperger's Syndrome
- What Makes a School Effective?
- Child Development Theories
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- Should Your Child Be Held Back a Grade? Know Your Rights
- Bullying in Schools
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Test Problems: Seven Reasons Why Standardized Tests Are Not Working