🏁 We mainly use colons to introduce a list, or to make a point about something:
I bought three things: a football, a net and a whistle.
There’s one thing a striker needs: speed!
Just try to make sure that the main part of the sentence before the colon could make sense on its own, e.g. in the first sentence above I bought three things could also be a sentence on its own.
📲 💻You can use this link to a Google Form so you can test yourself.
🔆 If this is clear to you, go on to Skill 38.
🛠 Need more? Read on.
Colons are really useful pieces of punctuation if you know how to use them. The main uses we’ll look at here are to introduce lists of things that are important, or for emphasis, or to introduce something someone has said or written. To introduce a list, just use it before you want to start it, and don’t forget to put the commas in after the first few items, e.g.
There are three things wrong with your car: the engine, the gearbox and the clutch.
A good meal should have everything: a starter, a main course and a dessert.
The Top Five richest people in the world in 2018 were all men: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Bernard Arnault and Mark Zuckerberg.
You would always use one after as follows or the following, e.g.
I dislike the following cars: Ferraris, Porsches and Bugattis.
When we use a colon for emphasis we use it towards the end of the sentence so it’s fairly easy to do, e.g.
The best way to improve your performance is this: train harder!
Don’t forget the biggest ingredient in a good life: good friends.
As the detective walked away from the crime scene, she thought about just one thing: when would the thief strike again?
We shouldn’t use one after saying things like for example, because that means the sentence before the colon couldn’t stand on its own eg
I can’t stand lots of things, for example: coleslaw, cabbage and onions. X
This should just use a comma like this:
I can’t stand lots of things, for example, coleslaw, cabbage and onions.
We can also use it to introduce a quotation from someone, as long as we use it outside any quotation marks we might need:
I interviewed the Prime Minister, and this is what she told me:
‘I will definitely win the next election by a landslide!’
Shakespeare’s most famous line is this one from Hamlet:
‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’
If you’re using it in your writing, just remember not to over-do it or it loses its effect!
🚦 Time for more?
🎯 💻 Here are some more exercises to help you see if you know how to use it: