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

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Examples:

  • Dear Mr. President:
  • To Whom It May Concern: