The colon [:] is a punctuation mark used to mark pauses. The duration of these pauses ranges from the comma [,] to the period [.]. That is, its pause is longer than the comma and shorter than the period. To better understand the purpose of a colon, you must first describe the function of both the comma and the period.The comma [,] is used to separate parts of a writing that are related to each other for their coherence. The period [.] Serves to separate complete sense units and that are within a paragraph. Now, the colon [:] is used to make separations and pauses between sentences, to draw the reader’s attention to what is next in the text and what is still related.

What are the colon for?

The two points are responsible for marking three types of pause , depending on the situation of the text. They serve to:

  • Indicate that an enumeration begins
  • Emphasize what follows in the text
  • Announce that there is an explanation to the above said

Indicate that an enumeration begins

The colon is used to indicate that points of a topic , aspects, elements or parts of a whole are going to be listed . It can be one or many. For instance:

  • There are four cardinal points: the North, the South, the East and the West
  • Among the countries of South America are: Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil.
  • The stationery that will be requested is: national identity document, military service card and proof of address.
  • They are going to sell different types of publications: novels, essays, anthologies, short stories.
  • The chemical elements found in the ore are: Iron, Magnesium, Silicon, Oxygen, Sulfur and Phosphorus.

Emphasize what follows in the text

The colons are placed so that the reader is attentive to what follows in the text. A very clear case is the letters and other documents created to communicate something to someone. They are written with the recipient’s name at the beginning, for example:

  • To whom it May concern:
  • Dear user:
  • Dear Mrs. Martínez:
  • Valuable clientele:
  • Dear Mr. Gomez:
  • Dear colleagues:
  • Attention, HR department:

By starting with phrases like these, with a colon at the end, you can imply that the message to be conveyed is important and that the reader should find out as soon as possible.

Announce that there is an explanation to the above said

The colon is the introduction to an explanation that follows. There are different cases in which they are used, such as:

  • Summary or conclusion of a sentence
  • Before putting a verbatim quote
  • Explanation or proof of what was said

When the colon is put to indicate the summary or conclusion of a sentence , we can find examples such as:

  • They had not only defeated it: they had created a new world.
  • He arrived very late: he would not have enough dinner.
  • Social networks affect families: they are a distraction that disintegrates.

When the colon is placed before a verbatim quote , the author who said it can be previously indicated. For instance:

  • The teacher said: “If you are never willing to try, you will end up failing.”
  • The judge concluded: “The accused is guilty. The session is over”
  • The director mentioned: “Those who have not paid tuition will be deprived of their exams.”

When the colon is put before giving an explanation or proof , we will come across examples such as:

  • The night sale was a success: the profits of a whole year were made.
  • We have already reached an agreement: 30% of the capital will be invested in promoting the business.
  • The company has achieved growth: it was worth switching to a variable scheme.

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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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