Punctuation Guide: When to Use a Colon

We prepared this punctuation guide to help you construct clear and readable sentences. And the colon is something you need to know about on the way to this goal.

What is a colon? The colon definition is short—it’s a punctuation mark that is usually used to introduce a list.

Here are some examples of simple punctuation and easy colon punctuation rules to use this punctuation mark correctly.

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Between two clauses

When you have two independent clauses, and the second one comments on or explains the previous clause—you can use the colon punctuation mark:


He came later than usual: his wife accidentally took the car keys when she left for work.


The colon before a list

Do you use a colon before a list? You may need the colon to list items in a sentence:


The program includes various activities: swimming, yoga, dancing, bicycling, and rock-climbing.

But be careful not to put it after a preposition:


We have pizzas with pepperoni, shrimp, and cheese.


The colon before quotes

To introduce a quotation, it’s good to mention its author. Also, sometimes a quotation is included in a sentence. In this case, you may need some punctuation:


The sign was challenging to understand, as there were missing letters, but it read: “Dangerous! Use the side road!”


Colon grammar rules to make an emphasis

Sometimes it’s essential to add some emotion to the text. But the question is–how to punctuate correctly? The uses of a colon in punctuation can emphasize a phrase or a word at the end of the sentence:


This relationship was interesting, lively, and fun, but she didn’t get the only thing she really needed: the truth.


Do you capitalize after a colon?

We often hear this question and can’t ignore it!

The rule is easy. You should capitalize after a colon if it’s a complete sentence:


Something can go wrong: We can catch the flu. You can lose your money. We can miss the plane.

You should also capitalize the first letter if it’s a proper noun:


No, only several students came to the lesson: Julie, Chris, Diana, Michael, Peter, and Lisa.

In other cases, you don’t use capital letters:


Every detail of the skirt she made was perfect: pockets, the belt, and black laces.

Colon – further study

Punctuation after a colon is easy when you know a couple of rules. We collected the most popular examples of colon punctuation in the English language.

We hope you now have a better understanding of colon punctuation rules and can help your friends with when to use a colon. We also advise you to read other sections in this guide.