Colon and Semi-colon

Colon

The main purpose of the colon is to:

Introduce a list

This is the instance in which colons are most frequently used.

- The reporter asked the Minister the following questions: When are you leaving to attend the international conference? What is your government’s stance on the topic to be discussed?

- The recipe for granny’s tasty sauce includes: garlic, tomato sauce, jerk sauce, browning, black pepper and Chinese sauce.

Note: capital letters are used after colons if it precedes complete sentence(s).

Introduce a quotation or explanation

- Lionel Messi said at the postgame interview: “Inter Milan played a patient game; they moved well without the ball and made it very difficult for us.”

- This watch is the better buy: it is made of stainless steel, has rubber strap, it’s water resistant and has date display.

Note: colons are always placed outside quotation marks.

Introduce a statement

- Recall we had to say this every morning: Labour for learning before you grow old, for learning is better than silver or gold, silver and gold will vanish away, but a good education will never decay.

Semicolon

This punctuation mark is used for two main purposes: to separate items in a long list, that itself contains the use of commas (this is a prime example); and to replace periods and commas in joining two independent sentences/clauses, to show their connection.

Separating items

Semicolons should be used if items to be listed are long, and contains commas.

- The basketball players shortlisted for the award include Kobe Bryant, a 6ft 6 guard of the Los Angeles Lakers; LeBron James, a 6ft 8 forward of the Miami Heats; Kevin Durant, a 6ft 9 forward of the Oklahoma City Thunder; and Dwyane Wade, a 6ft 4 Guard of the Miami Heats.

Joining Sentences

Semicolons are used in joining sentences, to show/emphasize their relation.

- The lawyer defended his client the best he could; he even found himself in contempt of court on two occasions while feverishly cross examining two of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Note: semicolons are always placed outside quotation marks.

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