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How to use a Colon

The colon is used to provide a pause before introducing related information.

Some of the main uses of the colon include:

Introducing a list

A list of items can be introduced by the colon. For example:

There are three countries in Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

There are many things we can see in the night sky: stars, planets, the moon and even comets.

Introducing an explanation or conclusion

Colons are often used to introduce an explanation or conclusion of an earlier statement. By using a colon, the second statement is emphasised, showing that it follows on from the first. For example:

We had to organise a gig: so many people wanted to see the band.

After a few weeks together, Sarah came to her conclusion: Robert wasn’t exciting enough for her.


The colon is often neglected but used correctly can improve your writing, clarifying and emphasising your message.

The next time you’re working on an article, try to use the colon and see if it can improve your writing.

Colon examples

The next examples show how to use a colon to introduce a list:

There are three countries beginning with Z: Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The nightclub played many different types of music: rock, hip-hop, electronica, indie and even soul.

These following examples show how to use a colon just to introduce a single item:

The role of the colon is simple: to introduce.

We knew who would be first in the race: speedy Steve.

The next examples show how a colon can introduce speech:

She grabbed the microphone and asked: “Is there a doctor in the house?”
Kate whispered in my ear: “Haven’t you got a PhD?”

As Julius Caesar once said: “We came, we saw, we conquered.”

Further examples show the colon used to introduce an explanation:

He asked why I hadn’t said hello: I hadn’t seen him.

Don’t bother coming over anymore: I’m not feeling well enough to meet up.

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