5 Rules of Colon Usage
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This handout explains the most common uses of three kinds of punctuation: semicolons ; , colons : , and dashes —. After reading the handout, you will be better able to decide when to use these forms of punctuation in your own writing. The semicolon looks like a comma with a period above it, and this can be a good way to remember what it does. A semicolon creates more separation between thoughts than a comma does but less than a period does. Here are the two most common uses of the semicolon:. Suppose I want to list three items that I bought at the grocery store:. Now suppose that the three items I want to list are described in phrases that already contain some commas:.
In addition, the colon usually appears after the salutation of a business letter Dear Professor Legree: , between the chapter and verse numbers in a biblical citation Genesis , between the title and subtitle of a book or article "Comma Sense: A FUNdamental Guide to Punctuation" , and between numbers or groups of numbers in expressions of time a. Keith Houston, who has authored several books on punctuation, explained the origin of the colon in his article "The Mysterious Origins of Punctuation" published on Sept. Houston said the punctuation mark originated, ultimately, during the third century B. The dots, aligned with the middle, bottom, or top of each line, represented what today would be a colon, comma, and period, respectively. Though the Romans disregarded the punctuation marks after conquering the Greeks, the dots eventually were given new life in the seventh century by Isidore of Seville. Ashley Timms in her Dec. The "Associated Press Stylebook, " provides possibly the best explanation among the various style guides of the purpose and use of the colon.
The colon is also known as the large bowel or large intestine. It is an organ that is part of the digestive system also called the digestive tract in the human body. The digestive system is the group of organs that allow us to eat and to use the food we eat to fuel our bodies. The colon plays a very important role in how our bodies use the food we eat. Here is how food travels through the body. Healthy eating is good for your overall health, but having a low-calorie, high-fiber diet that includes many fruits and vegetables is important to a healthy colon. A healthy colon will rid your body of the leftovers it no longer needs.
If you want to write English more effectively, then you should use the colon and semicolon. They look and sound similar, but they have very different uses.
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Colons can be confusing, that's true, but their function is actually quite straightforward: they introduce related information. Learning how to use colons correctly, along with other punctuation rules , can give your writing more clarity. Without knowing how to effectively use colons, a writer can end up just putting colons everywhere, nowhere at all, or interchanging the colon with a semicolon or comma. To avoid precisely that, let's take a look at these 5 rules of colon usage. Use a colon to introduce an item or list , if the list comes after a complete sentence or independent clause. For example:.
Semicolons, colons, and dashes