A colon (:) is a formal mark of punctuation. It has two functions only: to introduce and to separate. As a mark of introduction, the colon introduces formal quotations, restatements (पुन:कथन) or clarifying examples, and lists of enumerations. This construction gives more emphasis to these items than alternative sentence structures. As a mark of separation, the colon separates the salutation in a formal letter from the main body of the letter, titles from subtitles, the hours from minutes,etc.
A colon is used to call attention to a formal quotation. Example:
Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
NOTE: Do not use a colon to introduce a maxim, a proverb, or a quotation of a single sentence in ordinary dialogue. Example:
- The saying is, “A stitch in time saves nine.”
- John said, “Let’s go to the movies.”
The colon may take the place of expression as in effect, in other words, and namely to introduce new statements, restatements, and clarifying examples. For example:
Readers are of two sorts: one who carefully goes through the book, and the other who as carefully lets the book go through him.-Douglas Jerrold
The colon is used to introduce formal lists and enumerations. For example:
- I have come to the following conclusions:
- Please forward the items listed:
- Mix the ingredients as follows:
NOTE: Do not use a colon to introduce a list if the sentence does not have an introductory word or phrase to complete it.
Its wrong to write as: The crash injured: Bill, Tom, and David.
Right implementation is: The crash injured three students: Bill, Tom, and David.
The colon is used in reference to time to separate hours from minutes. For example:
- 10 : 15 A.M. (US)
- 10 : 15 a.m. (British)
- 6 : 50 P.M. (US)
- 6 : 50 p.m. (British)
The colon is used to separate a subtitle from a main title. For example:
- Wheat : The Staff of Life
- My Father : A member of Mark Twain
The colon is used to separate verse from chapter in the Bible. For example:
The Song of Solomon 2 : 1
The colon is used for the following the salutation in a formal business letter. For example:
- Dear Ms. James :
- Dear Sir :
- Gentlemen :
When the colon appears together with closing quotation marks, the colon always follows the quotation marks. For example:
The teacher said, “Please answer the following questions”:
The colon always follows a closing parenthesis such as:
The librarian recommended the following books (all by Maugham) :
The colon commonly used to be joined with the dash. This is no longer accepted usage:
- Wrong statement: We must follow these rules:–
- Right statement: We must follow these rules :
Before direct speech and quotation colon is used. For example:
- He said : “I will do it.”
- Shakespeare said : “Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
Colon is also used in dialogue before the name of the speaker. For example:
- Teacher: What are you doing ?
- Ram: Sir, I am doing my lessons.
Colon is also implemented after a word definition or description are to be given. For example:
- Noun : A noun is a naming word.
- Albatross : A large white sea-bird with long wings.