The Colon

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:

first, etc.

4. Before formal quotations.

Write a short essay on the following topic: "What is wrong with our

industrial system?"

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.

Dear John,

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

literary references.

"The Practice of Typography." New York: Oswald Publishing Company.

The colon has been similarly employed in the imprints on the title pages

of books.

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


The Bracket The Comma facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail