A colon is a punctuation mark that consists of two vertical dots. It is used to precede a list of items, enumeration of things, a quotation or an explanation.
A colon introduces a list of items or things
- This first-aid box contains the following items: bandages, plasters, lotion, medicines and a pair of small scissors.
- It isn’t easy to move overseas: we have to have enough savings, look for jobs in the same city where we going to live, and we will have to adapt well to a tropical climate.
A colon separates two main clauses. The second clause usually gives an explanation of what is stated in the first clause.
- This is what the two grandfathers do every evening: they spend hours chatting about everything under the sun.
- This is their arrangement: the wife cooks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the husband cooks on the other days of the week.
What comes after a colon in a sentence can be a quotation.
- It was noisy with everyone talking, and suddenly there was a louder voice: “All right, I’m not a good husband. But are you a good wife?”
- There was an announcement when everyone was enjoying the dinner: “Has anyone seen a set of keys? Mr. Carl’s car keys are missing.”
It is used to separate the hour from the minutes when stating time.
- It’s late; it’s already 11:59 P.M.
- No! Can’t you tell the correct time? It’s 11:59 A.M.
A colon is used in a business letter.
- Dear Mr. President:
- To Whom It May Concern: