The colon marks the place of transition in a long sentence consisting of
many members and involving a logical turn of the thought. Both the colon
and semicolon are much less used now than formerly. The present tendency
is toward short, simple, clear sentences, with consequent little
punctuation, and that of the open style. Such sentences need little or
no aid to tell their story.
_Rules for the Use of the Colon_
1. Before _as_, _viz._, _that is_, _namely_, etc., when these words
introduce a series of particular terms in apposition with a general
The American flag has three colors: namely, red, white, and blue.
2. Between two members of a sentence when one or both are made up of two
or more clauses divided by semicolons.
The Englishman was calm and self-possessed; his antagonist impulsive
and self-confident: the Englishman was the product of a volunteer
army of professional soldiers; his antagonist was the product of a
drafted army of unwilling conscripts.
3. Before particular elements in a definite statement.
Bad: He asked what caused the accident?
Right: He asked, "What caused the accident?"
Napoleon said to his army at the battle of the Pyramids: "Soldiers,
forty centuries are looking down upon you."
The duties of the superintendent are grouped under three heads:
4. Before formal quotations.
Write a short essay on the following topic: "What is wrong with our
When the formal introduction is brief, a comma may be used.
St. Paul said, "Bear ye one another's burdens."
5. After the formal salutatory phrase at the opening of a letter.
My dear Sir:
When the letter is informal use a comma.
6. Between the chapter and verse in scriptural references.
John xix: 22.
7. Between the city of publication and the name of the publisher in
"The Practice of Typography." New York: Oswald Publishing Company.
The colon has been similarly employed in the imprints on the title pages
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880.
DeVinne remarks upon this use of the colon that it is traditional and
can not be explained.
The colon is sometimes used between the hours and minutes in indicating
time, like: 11:42 a.m.
DeVinne does not approve of this, though other authorities give it as
the rule. It is probably better to use the period in spite of its use as
a decimal point, which use was probably the motive for seeking something
else to use in writing time indications. In railroad printing the hour
is often separated from the minutes by a simple space without any
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