Colon and Semi-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.
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.
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.
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.